United Airlines' Aviate Pilot Development Program puts WMU aviators on fast track to careers

Contact: Tom Thinnes

Lauren Quandt, an alumna and certified flight instructor at WMU, stands near several planes on the College of Aviation campus.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University is partnering with United Airlines under terms of the company’s new pilot career development initiative called Aviate. The partnership will put WMU College of Aviation students accepted into this new program on a fast track to a career at the airline. With the aim of hiring more than 10,000 pilots in the next decade, United is positioning itself to hire the best and brightest through the progression of Aviate.

“We are very excited to be part of this new program with United Airlines,” says Capt. Dave Powell, dean of the College of Aviation. “As the airline industry continues to address the shortage of highly qualified aviation professionals, we are very proud United chose Western Michigan University to help the company continue to bring the highest qualified candidates into their pilot pipeline. We have consistently striven at WMU to produce the industry's best trained and most sought-after graduates.  This partnership helps to validate how the aviation industry views the quality of our program and the type of professionals we are producing.”

WMU College of Aviation students who are accepted into the program will be put on an expedited trajectory towards a career at United. With the fastest track to a major airline in the industry, Bronco aviators will be able to reach a main-line carrier quicker through Aviate than any other program.

Aviate will be another option for an individual interested in becoming a pilot with United Airlines.  The program will complement existing pilot pathways, looking for candidates who:

  • Reflect United’s leadership qualities, including the ability to model character, think creatively, deliver results and foster teamwork;
  • Share the company’s commitment to the principles of "core4" service behaviors: Safe, Caring, Dependable and Efficient; and
  • Demonstrate a passion for the industry and a lifelong dedication to excellence and achievement.

The program consists of five steps a student must take in order to successfully arrive at United Airlines. Once students have been accepted into the program, they must gain experience teaching as a certified flight instructor at an Aviate partner university. Once they have accumulated the minimum number of flight hours to earn their restricted airline transport pilot’s license, the candidate will expand their experience flying with a United Express Aviate partner: Air Wisconsin, ExpressJet, Mesa Airlines or CommutAir.  After a minimum service requirement of 2,000 flight hours and 24 months with a United Express Aviate partner, the candidate will be able to transition to United as a first officer.

“As the program currently stands,” says Tom Grossman, executive director of flight operations at WMU, “this is the fastest route to a major airline and will significantly address the hiring demands being experienced in the airlines.”

The application window for interested candidates will open early in 2020. Interested students must:

  • Complete two semesters of full-time coursework at a partner university;
  • Pursue an approved aviation major, resulting in Restricted Air Transportation Certificate—R-ATP—eligibility;
  • Maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0;
  • Uphold the university’s student code of conduct; and
  • Hold a minimum of a private pilot certificate.

About Western Michigan University's College of Aviation

WMU's College of Aviation is among the oldest such academic units in the nation, beginning in 1939 and evolving over time from a single program to its current status as a full academic college. It has been located since 1997 at the Battle Creek Executive Airport at Kellogg Field and has been the site of nationally recognized flight teams and state-of-the-art flight and technical training initiatives and research. The college offers majors in aviation flight sciences, aviation management and operations, and aviation technical operations. WMU's aviation college is the only comprehensive collegiate aviation program in the state of Michigan.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.