United announces partnership with DSU for flight-training program

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DOVER — United Airlines announced Tuesday an initiative to train 5,000 new pilots, at least half of them women and people of color, by 2030.

The airline’s flight school, United Aviate Academy, will create opportunities for thousands of students to seek careers as commercial airline pilots, backed by scholarship commitments from United Airlines and JPMorgan Chase.

United has also finalized partnerships with three historically Black colleges and universities, including Delaware State University. Through the partnership, students will have the opportunity to join Aviate and connect with dedicated ambassadors and coaches who will guide them on the path to a United flight deck.

The Aviate pilot-development program provides the most direct route to becoming a United captain and is built to accommodate pilots of all experience levels, from those with zero hours to professional pilots already flying for another airline. For instance, an aspiring aviator who joins the United Aviate Academy in Phoenix with no prior flying experience can become a licensed pilot within two months. Within a year, he or she can start earning income after receiving a commercial pilot license. Within five years, the person can become a United pilot.

“Over the next decade, United will train 5,000 pilots who will be guaranteed a job with United, after they complete the requirements of the Aviate program — and our plan is for half of them to be women and people of color,” United CEO Scott Kirby said in a statement. “We’re excited that JPMorgan Chase has agreed to support our work to diversify our pilot ranks and create new opportunities for thousands of women and people of color who want to pursue a career in aviation.”

The United Aviate Academy’s first class of 20 pilots will begin their studies in the third quarter of 2021, with the class graduating in the first half of 2022. Graduates will then have opportunities to pursue their careers while working specifically within the Aviate ecosystem at partner universities, professional flight-training organizations and United Express carriers.

The academy also offers support and coaching for pilots to develop into leaders who exemplify professionalism.

United has committed to fund $1.2 million in scholarships, while JPMorgan Chase has also agreed to provide $1.2 million to support women and people of color who are accepted to United Aviate Academy. In addition, for those United Aviate Academy students who may need additional financing, United has partnered with Sallie Mae to offer private student loans.

United plans to work with a variety of groups, including the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, Sisters of the Skies, the Latino Pilots Association and the Professional Asian Pilots Association, to help identify and steer highly qualified and diverse candidates to the United Aviate Academy. As key partners, these organizations will select the applicants to receive the scholarships and grants funded by United and JPMorgan Chase.

The academy is now accepting applications. It hopes to enroll its first 100 students this year.

Delaware State University, which boasts its own Aviation Program, has several alums currently flying for United.

“I welcome today’s announcement by United Airlines to help break down barriers to the airline pilot career path and increase diversity in the ranks,” Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said in a statement Tuesday.

“This effort will not only create new opportunities for women and people of color to become pilots, it will provide the industry with access to exceptional talent from HBCUs like Delaware State University, which are already working to graduate more pilots from underrepresented groups with the support of the bipartisan FLIGHT Act, which I introduced and helped pass into law last year. Our aviation industry should look like our country, and this announcement is an important step toward inclusion and diversity at the highest levels of the field.”

Late last year, the Senate approved legislation offering new resources for ROTC students at HBCUs, with special emphasis on support for flight training.

For more information on Aviate, visit here.