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United opens its own flight school to try and tackle the pilot shortage in the airline industry

United Airlines-Pilots
Posted at 8:36 AM, Jan 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-28 15:22:00-05

A pilot shortage facing airlines has leaders in the industry looking at new ways to bring in more potential talent to fill in those gaps.

As the pandemic stretches into yet another year, airlines already experiencing crew shortages face an even tougher challenge to solve when pilots are out sick. Now, in the Arizona desert, United Airlines is training future pilots from the ground up.

“I like the control. I like the freedom. I like being in the air,” said Adela Gallegos, a student pilot.

United Airlines' CEO Scott Kirby told CNN, “The pilot shortage is real. We can hire pilots at United Airlines, but the regional airlines and smaller airlines are having a real pilot shortage and are having real challenges.”

All major airlines train pilots, and United has been doing this for a while, as the Points Guy reported. The difference with United's Aviate Academy is that future pilots in this program can come in with no experience, and are being taught directly by the airline and its instructors.

That also gives United a chance to expand their focus on diversity and get underrepresented groups in the industry to grow. Right now, according to Kirby, 19% of United's pilots are women or people of color, and Kirby says 80% of those enrolled in their pilot program's first two classes are women or people of color.

Flight training in the United States is expensive. United is working with J.P. Morgan Chase to cover the cost of a student's private pilot's license. Other costs total around $70,000 and can be covered by a student loan. While still expensive, it's lower than other options which can reach $100,000 in some cases.

Marcel Kimbrel, a flight instructor with United told CNN, “You know if I can do it, you can do you really just have to step out of there and really take a chance on your dreams.”

Airlines worldwide are looking to fill at least 34,000 new pilot spots by 2025, CNN reported.

United told the Points Guy that they don't expect pilots from their program to spend longer than 24 months at regional airports before moving up.