A concerning set of allegations have been levied against the United Aviate Academy, an in-house flight training school at United Airlines.
Concerning Allegations Suggest Trouble At Showcase United Aviate Academy
In February 2020, United acquired its own flight school, called the United Aviate Academy. The plan was to train 5,000 pilots by 2030, all of whom would be guaranteed a job at United and half who would be women or people of color.
Yet as we enter the second half of 2023, a detailed post on Reddit purportedly posted by a student or student advocate at the United Aviate Academy (UAA) suggests that the people running UAA may need more accountability. Let’s examine the note:
So remember United’s “revolutionary” flight school The United Aviate Academy? Yeah well, it’s kind of an absolute dumpster fire.
What could go wrong when you put a $17 billion airline in charge of a large flight school? Well apparently literally everything.
The school is riddled with problems.
They have hundreds of people who have been accepted that are waiting for class dates but they are currently bringing in 10-15 students per month and even skipping some months.
They are incredibly behind on their training timeline. Everywhere they state that this is a 12-month program, 0-MEI [Multi-Engine Flight Instructor], but in reality, people are taking over 18 months just to finish CFI [Certified Flight Instructor].
Another example of training delays, people at the academy are currently taking over 5 months to finish their PPLs [Private Pilot License]. Of a class of 16 that started Q1 2023, only 4 have taken their PPL check-ride as of the end of June.
Instructors are incredibly overloaded, some instructors have as many as 11 students, and remember, these are all full-time students. Students are promised 5 flights per week but are often capped at 2-4 because the instructors cannot legally fly enough.
Speaking of overloaded instructors, management pushes CFIs to their limits but also watches their every move and any minor wrong step like flying to much with certain students has gotten CFIs fired.
People are having to wait up to a month in between certificates due to instructor overload.
They are not hiring their own graduates but are starting to hire externally.
Management is trying to hide all the problems. For example; they are having “graduation ceremonies” for those who finish CPL [Commercial Pilot License] (even though the program doesn’t end until you finish all your CFI certificates) in order to make them look on time since people are taking 12-13 months just to finish CPL.
UAA fosters a culture of intimidation. Many students have been let go after speaking out or complaining to hire-ups for vague reasons, and therefore students currently at the school are too scared to speak out. School management constantly has all eyes and ears open for any sign of dissent or criticism and is looking over everyone’s shoulder.
Despite all these issues, United Aviate Academy management is currently having internal casting calls for a prime-time commercial that will be airing nationwide. I think that show’s where the school’s management’s priorities lie.
At this point, I am convinced that United doesn’t care about flight training at all and United Aviate Academy is just a poster child for its “good leads the way” marketing message because whenever they talk about the school they only talk about how many women and minorities are at the school but never discuss any actual flight training accomplishments or achievements.
I speak today on behalf of many UAA students who unfortunately cannot speak about this openly for the above-stated reasons. Hopefully, if someone is considering this school they will see this and think otherwise, and also maybe this info getting out there will foster some change at this school.
(bolding not mine)
The concerns are quite alarming and have nothing to do with the initial controversy over the affirmative actions aims of the school. Numbers 9 and 10 are particularly concerning, as a house built on optics rather than substance will ultimately collapse.
We will update this story if we hear from United Airlines, but it appears that even if there are some exaggerations above, more resources must be invested in this school if it is to be successful. United must carefully vet those who are leading it to ensure that this is not a vanity project, but a meaningful program to funnel well-trained pilots to United in the years ahead. Students, current pilots, and customers all deserve this.