If your aspirations to “fly the friendly skies” involve settling into the cockpit and going full throttle down the runway instead of taking it all in from your aisle seat in economy, your career goal of taking to the air just became a little more attainable.

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United are the first to open a flight school in the US © Aviate

United Airlines just signed an agreement to purchase the Westwind School of Aeronautics in Phoenix, Arizona, becoming the first major US airline to operate a flight academy. The school will become part of Aviate, United’s program launched last year to better recruit and train would-be pilots.

“Launching our own academy provides us with the unique opportunity to not only ensure we maintain the ideal number of quality candidates within our pilot pipeline, but also play a significant role in recruiting, developing and welcoming those with diverse backgrounds to the United family,” Captain Bebe O’Neil, United’s managing director of Aviate, said in a statement. 

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The academy also links to other domestic and international flight schools © Aviate

Aviate aims to give aspiring pilots the most direct path to the skies, with an Aviate regional partner minimum requirement of 24 months and 2000 hours, a choice of select United Express carriers, improved career development, mentoring and access to United pilots and learning tools and immediate inclusion in the United family with access to senior leadership, site visits and tours and travel privileges. Other current Aviate partners include Lufthansa Aviation Training Academy, Flight Safety International, airlines ExpressJet, Boutique Air, CommutAir and Mesa airlines and educational institutions like Florida Institute of Technology, University of North Dakota and Western Michigan University. 

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Aviate intends to make its program accessible to all © Aviate

Aviate also plans to tackle financial barriers that can prevent entrance to the program and make an aeronautical career more accessible to more people, including working with financial institutions who can offer industry-tailed grace periods and competitive interest rates for student loans. And an upcoming scholarship program will be focused on encouraging women and minorities to join the United family.

The airline expects approximately 300 students to graduate from the United Aviate Academy in its first full year of operation, and United hopes to hire 10,000 pilots by 2029.

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