DOVER — Delaware State University has named United Airlines Captain and Chair of the University’s Aviation Advisory Council, CJ Charlton, as the Aviation Program director.
A 1995 graduate of the University’s aviation program, Captain Charlton brings flight and leadership experience flying for United. He currently flies the Airbus 319/320/321 and previously piloted Boeing 737, 757, 767 and 777 aircraft – accumulating more than 7,300 hours of flight time.
He is also a retired Major from the North Carolina Air National Guard, where he was a C-130 pilot, accumulating over 3,000 hours, 1,500 of which were in combat conditions.
Captain Charlton has served on selection panels for future pilot training candidates, recruited and mentored future officers, managed aircrews on deployments, and led various high-visibility missions around the globe. Currently, he is the Chair of the University's Aviation Advisory Council and was a key driver in developing the University's relationship with United.
Mr. Charlton is also the founder and executive director of the Black Aviation Endowment Fund, a nonprofit that provides funding to individuals seeking to become professional aviators and supports the nine HBCU aviation programs and the 35-plus minority organizations that conduct informal aviation education and training programs.
After seven years of leading and managing the program's growth and expansion, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Michael Hales ended his DSU tenure in mid-January 2024 after being named CEO of the United Aviate Academy, a flight school owned and operated by United Airlines in Goodyear, Arizona.
As the United Aviate Academy CEO, Lt. Col. Hales will oversee a flight school with more than 360 student pilots and a staff nearly 280, including certified flight instructors.
United Airlines established the Aviate Academy in 2021 representing a significant investment in the airline’s pilot hiring strategy that will create additional pathways to the flight deck for aspiring aviators.
In a note to the Aviate team, Captain Michael Bonner, managing director of Aviate and Pilot Strategy at United, said, "The United Leadership team and I agree that Michael's experience, passion, and strategic foresight make him the right leader to take the United Aviate Academy to greater heights.”
In 2021, United also developed relationships with three HBCUs, Delaware State University, Elizabeth City State University, and Hampton University, to identify top talent and recruit them into the Aviate ecosystem.
Earlier this month, the University formalized that relationship in a partnership agreement with United. Under that agreement, DSU's Aviation Program professional pilot students who meet the eligibility requirements can apply to Aviate and, upon acceptance, receive a conditional job offer as a United First Officer.
University Dean of the College of Business Michael Casson, where the Aviation Program resides, said, "I am thrilled for Michael and his family, and I am thrilled for Delaware State University. Michael brought an enormous passion to his work in our Aviation Program and built with an eye toward unrelenting excellence. His and his team's efforts are unmistakable and show up daily in our aviation pilots and management students. It's why we claim a strong value proposition as the high-quality, low-cost provider east of the Mississippi."
In Hales' tenure at DSU, the Aviation Program tripled under his leadership from 57 students to its current 163 and saw the University invest in 15 new aircraft and build a Helicopter Flight Training Program with the United States Army ROTC.
He was instrumental in raising $4 million in donations in support of the Aviation Program, founded the annual HBCU Aviation Director's Summit and obtained FAA self-examining authority for four of the six certification/ratings, saving more than $6,000 per student in Designated Pilot Examination fees.
University President Tony Allen said, "In his new role, Michael is continuing to build the same diverse talent pipeline that marked his career at the University and is doing so with one of our flagship partners.
“We could not be prouder of what this means for United, Delaware State University, and the many students who will realize their dreams because of our unique partnership."
The University is excited about Charlton’s return to his alma mater.
"CJ is coming home. After Colonel Hales’ stellar run, I cannot think of anyone more passionate, qualified and committed than Captain Charlton to take over the program,” Dr. Allen said. "He will lead a talented team of his colleagues and an ever-growing cadre of exceptional students to take us to the next level."