United Aviate is a pilot pathway program built for pilots looking to fly for United. The program combines several pathways for prospects to follow and offers mentorship and travel benefits to pilots.
The Aviate Program is only available after training at or working for United partner flight schools or universities. Here’s a rundown of the program with its perks and disadvantages.
About United Airlines
United is one of the oldest and largest major US airlines, tracing its roots back to 1926 with the founding of Varney Airlines. Over the years, the company has merged with many carriers to become the colossus it is today. Most recently, United merged with Continental in 2010, making it one of the top four US carriers.
United operates routes to all six inhabited continents from eight hub airports. In all, they serve 335 airports in 60 countries. Their fleet includes 841 aircraft that operate more than 4,000 flights per day on average. They are the founding member of the Star Alliance, the largest airline group with over 28 members.
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Regional service for the airline is provided by numerous smaller airlines operating under the trade name United Express. The Aviate Program does not ensure that you’ll fly for United mainline–but it does offer opportunities for careers with their regional carriers like Air Wisconsin, CommutAir, Mesa, or GoJet.
By completing a minimum amount of time with these carriers, you can apply for a first officer position with mainline United.
United Aviate Program Overview
Like many major airlines, United has created a program to ensure the company has a steady supply of future pilots. The Aviate Program provides career paths for pilots of all experience levels to join the United family.
Generally, the Aviate Program is a collection of flight schools and organizations that feed the United hiring process. United has vetted these partner organizations. Working through these organizations may provide scholarship or employment opportunities while you build your flight hours and experience.
Like all major carriers, United only hires highly qualified, experienced pilots.
That means prospects need to build their hours before applying, usually by working as an instructor and later for a regional carrier. The United Aviate program streamlines this process by organizing a clear path from start to finish, using their partner schools and United Express regional airlines, of course.
United Aviate Academy
The United Aviate Academy has been set up near Phoenix, Arizona, for prospects with zero flight time. The school operates a fleet of new Cirrus aircraft and has several on-campus and off-campus housing options for its students.
To be eligible for the Aviate Academy, you must be 18 years old, have a high school diploma or GED, and be a US citizen or legal resident. To be accepted, you’ll have to pass a series of assessments, including a behavioral interview. In addition, acceptance is conditional upon passing the FAA Private Pilot knowledge test with an 80% or better and getting an FAA first-class medical certificate.
Finally, you’ll need to pass a drug screening, background check, and provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
To lessen the cost of training, United Aviate Academy has partnered with JP Morgan Chase and other organizations to provide scholarships for successful candidates. The cost of the private pilot program is covered for students who complete the entire curriculum.
The full program takes about a year to complete and requires a five-day-per-week, full-time commitment. After the first two months, you’ll get your private pilot license and be accepted into the Aviate program.
The Academy has been designed for applicants with little or no flying experience. If you already have your private, you can transfer in to begin training at the Aviate Academy. But, if you have more advanced ratings, they will not credit you for that experience. Therefore, students with more experience and ratings may be better off training at a partner flight school or university.
You can read more about the United Aviate Academy on its website.
Prospects are eligible for the Aviate program after completing their private pilot license. This may be completed at the United Aviate Academy or one of their partner flight schools or universities.
The remaining ten months of the training program are dedicated to completing your ratings–instrument, commercial single and multiengine, flight instructor, CFI-instrument, and multiengine instructor.
Once you have your ratings, it’s time to build hours and get your ATP certification. You can instruct for a partner school or the Aviate Academy, or you may choose to apply for a first officer position with one of United’s partner Part 135 operators. If you are currently building time towards your ATP or Restricted ATP, you can enter the Aviate program if you work at one of United’s partner organizations for at least 750 flight hours.
Once you’ve got your ATP or Restricted ATP, you can apply to one of the United Express regional airlines–Air Wisconsin, CommutAir, GoJet, or Mesa. If you are hired, you will be required to sign a 24-month/2,000 flight hour commitment.
When you complete the minimum transition requirements, you can apply to be a first officer with United. Coming from the Aviate Program puts you at the top of the applicant list, but you’ll still need to meet the same requirements as everyone else.
You can read more about the United Aviate Program on its website, including the various pathways to get into it.
Aviate Program Benefits
For many, the organization of the program is appealing. The program makes the steps easy and clear for those unfamiliar with the industry. And while you aren’t locked into most of the choices made for you, it provides an efficient framework to make your dreams a reality.
The Aviate Program’s primary benefit is to support you as a candidate within their hiring process. From the company’s view, this allows them to introduce you to the corporate culture, ideally resulting in coaching, mentoring, and networking opportunities as you proceed through your flight training.
These connections can be invaluable for young pilots starting in the industry.
Another tangible perk is that travel benefits are extended to Aviate Program members. As a result, you can enjoy travel privileges to worldwide United destinations.
The downside of the Program is that members are limited to partner programs, flight schools, and airlines. And, if you do choose to work with a United Express partner, you may have to sign a commitment to stay with them for a certain amount of time.
Programs like United Aviate have been around for years and are an important part of an airline’s management plan. They need a way to keep a steady stream of qualified pilots in their pipeline. Whether or not the program benefits the flight student is up to each student, their circumstances, and their ultimate goals.