April 5, 2023

Pilot Recruitment at SUN ‘n FUN

Phil Lightstone

― By: Phil Lightstone

The pilot shortage is a widely discussed topic by the airlines, flight schools, flight instructors and most pilots.  Fueled by the COVID pandemic, many airlines offered their line pilots and aircrew early retirement, to mitigate monthly salary costs as passenger revenue declined.  United Airlines will see 5,000 of their pilots retiring in the next 10 years.   United’s CEO Scott Kirby comments: “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 or people of color.”

In an effort to backfill the worsening pilot shortage, some airlines have created flight training organizations.  United has created the United Aviate Academy (www.unitedaviate.com/aviate-program-career-paths/united-aviate-academy/), located in Phoenix AZ.  UAA’s goal is to graduate 500 new pilots per year.  Their 2023 class has 320 students, with an expected dropout rate of 32.  The program is designed to immerse student pilots into aviation with an outcome of obtaining their PPL, Commercial, Instrument, Multi and CFI ratings within 12 months, at a cost of USD $71,250.

In year two, they begin acquiring hours with the goal of 1,500 hours (an ATP requirement).  While they acquire hours, they can work for UAA as a flight instructor with a guarantee of a minimum of 70 flight hours per month at USD $40 per hour.  While USD $2,800 per month does not sound like a lot, the cost of living in Phoenix can be reduced through finding a roommate.  UAA has created partnerships with a variety of regional air carriers to bolster employment opportunities while the students gain hours.  United Airlines and JPMorgan Chase contributes USD $2.4 Million in annual scholarships to help students finance the financial realities of the cost of entry into the cockpit.

Anyone can apply, regardless of race or gender identity. The scholarship funds are distributed through UAA’s partner organizations:  Latino Pilots AssociationNational Gay Pilots Association, Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals,  Professional Asian Pilots Association ,Sisters of the Skies and Women in Aviation International. Each organization may have their own requirements.

(Photo: Phil Lightstone)