April 03, 2021
Advertised as the most direct route to United, and the fastest track to a major airline. United plans to hire over 10,000 pilots in the next decade and this program looks like a great opportunity to be one of them. The sooner you join, the sooner you get to United.
When can I apply?
You can apply to the program at just about any point prior to actually getting a job with United, and as mentioned, the earlier you apply, the better. The catch is that you have to be at a United Aviate partner university, flight school, Part 135 carrier or United Express carrier to apply.
The program is broken down into three stages: Learning to Fly, Building Time toward your ATP, and Flying for a United Express carrier. The Learning to Fly stage can be completed at the United Aviate Academy, a partner university, or a partner flight school. The Time Building stage can be accomplished as a flight instructor at one of the partner universities/flight schools, or at a partner 135 carrier (Ameriflight, or Boutique Air). From there, you'll fly at one of the United Express carriers (Air Wisconsin, Mesa, GoJet, and CommutAir) until moving on to United.
We'll take a look at the different partner programs and airlines, the requirements to apply at each stage, and the track you'll follow to United.
A quick note before we get started, most application requirements shown below only require a high school diploma/GED, but United does require a bachelor’s degree by the time you make the transition to a First Officer at United, unless you receive an exemption.
Application Requirements: 18 years old, High school diploma or GED, US citizen or legal permanent resident
Track: The United Aviate Academy requires an interview to begin your training at the flight school. This interview is strictly for the flight school, and not for the United Aviate program (you have to have your Private License before being eligible to apply to the Aviate program). If/when accepted, you'll jump right into your Private Pilot training. Here's the kicker: the school covers the cost of your Private Pilot License! No joke. Straight from the Aviate website, "If you don't have a Private Pilot License (PPL) and are accepted into United Aviate Academy, we'll cover the cost (~$17,750 value)." Once you have your Private License, you're then eligible to apply for entry into the United Aviate program. Once accepted, over the next 10 months you'll progress from your Instrument Rating through your Multi Engine CFI. Total costs are estimated to be $71,250, but scholarships as well as financial aid are available!
Your next step is to join an Aviate partner to build time toward your R-ATP or ATP license as a CFI or Part 135 pilot (shown below). This is described as an 18 month program, but it doesn't mention an 18 month/750 hour minimum as required in some of the programs listed below. Once you have your R-ATP/ATP you'll transition to one of the regional airline partners, and after a minimum of 2 years and 2,000 flight hours (1,500 for Captains) you'll make the final move to United when a First Officer position opens and you're at the top of the list!
Benefits: I would think that being immersed in the Aviate world from day 1 can only make things easier. The cost of your Private Pilot License is covered, scholarships are available, and, if desired, you can get your training started prior to college. It also appears as though the 18 month/750 hour time building commitment is not required. If you like the flexibility with college, and the cost savings (who wouldn't?), this could be a great route! If not, the Partner Universities track might be a better option for you.
Here are the Aviate Academy details from United (application, costs, scholarships, progression, etc).
Application Requirements: 2 full-time semesters of coursework, an FAA approved aviation major resulting in R-ATP eligibility, 3.0 cumulative GPA, private pilot certificate, and stay out of trouble
Track: Once accepted, you'll complete your degree, and begin instructing with the university, building toward your R-ATP minimums (1,000 hours). Once eligible for the R-ATP, you're eligible to transition to a United Express partner, where you'll spend a minimum of 24 months and 2,000 hours of flight time before being eligible to transition to United. When a First Officer position opens with United and you’re at the top of the priority list, you’ll receive a job offer. The sooner you join, the higher your priority to get to United.
Important: As you continue reading, you'll come across an 18 month / 750 hour commitment to whatever company you're time building with. We didn't forget to mention that commitment here. Participants attending, or who graduated from, a participating university with an FAA-approved aviation major and enter Aviate as a CFI are exempt from the 18-month and 750-hour requirement!
Benefits: Reduced R-ATP requirements, and no time commitment to the flight school, like you'll see in the tracks below. Remember, seniority is everything in the airlines. If these universities are appealing to you, this could be your best / fastest option to United.
Application Requirements: Pursuing a commercial certificate, CFI, CFII or MEI, be in good standing with the flight school, and have a high school diploma / GED (although a bachelor's degree is preferred).
Track: Very similar to the university track, but with a couple stipulations. Once your flight training is complete, you can flight instruct at one of the partner programs, or fly as a Part 135 pilot at one of the partner carriers (shown below) to build time toward your ATP. Generally, students will instruct at the school they attended, but wherever you end up working, a minimum commitment of 18 months and 750 flight hours is required. Once that commitment has been satisfied, and you've reached your R-ATP/ATP minimums, you're eligible to transition to a United Express Carrier. A minimum of 24 months and 2,000 flight hours with the Express carrier and you're eligible to transition to United! When a First Officer position opens with United and you’re at the top of the priority list, you’ll receive a job offer. The sooner you join, the higher your priority to get to United.
Application Requirements: High school diploma / GED, although a bachelor's degree is preferred for the program
Track: Already flying for Ameriflight or Boutique Air? Start the application through airline apps, go through the interview process, and get on track to United! In this case, you'll commit to a minimum of 18 months and 750 flight hours with the company. Once the time commitment has been met and you have the R-ATP/ATP hours, you're eligible for the transition to a United Express Carrier. Just like the other tracks, a minimum of 24 months and 2,000 flight hours with the Express carrier, and you're eligible to transition to United! And, of course, when a First Officer position opens with United and you’re at the top of the priority list, you’ll receive a job offer. The sooner you join, the higher your priority to get to United.
Application Requirements: You just have to be flying for one of the partner airlines.
Track: Apply through airline apps, get through the interview process and then wait your turn to get to you United. Of course, there's a little more to it than that. The same 24 month / 2,000 flight hour commitment mentioned above applies, but you'll be credited the months and time you've already accomplished at the airline. You must still serve a minimum of six months with the partner airline - the wording of that sentence on the website is a little confusing. I'm assuming it means they'll credit you for your time at the company, but you'll have to commit to a minimum of 6 months with the company after being accepted into the Aviate program. If I learn otherwise I'll update the information. Just like the other tracks, when a First Officer position opens with United and you’re at the top of the priority list, you’ll receive a job offer. Again, the sooner you join, the higher your priority to get to United.
Are these great programs? Absolutely. Are they the fastest programs? Probably, but not necessarily. If you can set yourself apart from your peers (military time, check airman, airline instructor, internship with the company, etc.) then it's possible an interview can come before a program like this where you have to wait your turn in line. Does that mean you should avoid the program and look for ways to set yourself apart from the rest of crowd? I don't think so. I think your best bet is to get in one of these programs and work to set yourself apart. That way, if for whatever reason the interview doesn't come, or the interview doesn't go well, you've still got the flow through job in your back pocket.
If you have experience with this program, we'd love to hear about it. Feel free to drop some information in the comments and help out those trying to figure out their career plans!
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