United Airlines plans $100 million expansion to pilot training center

A United Airlines passenger plane prepares to depart its gate and taxi to the runway at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California.

Robert Alexander | Getty Images

United Airlines plans to inaugurate the expansion of its training center in Denver on Wednesday, a move to prepare thousands of pilots to fly passengers as the carrier embarks on a hiring spree.

The project will cost around $100 million. The new four-story building at its training campus will allow United to add six new flight simulators. The airline plans to add six more simulators later. It currently has space for 40 simulators.

The new simulators will be used to train pilots on Boeing 737 Max and Airbus jetliners, after a massive order last year, as well as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, said Marc Champion, general manager of the flight training center. , to CNBC.

The carrier expects the project to be completed before the end of next year. Champion said the training center expansion project has been underway for about a year.

Like other carriers, United faces intense competition for pilots as the industry recovers from the Covid pandemic. The airline plans to hire about 10,000 pilots by the end of the decade, Champion said. The Chicago-based carrier plans to add about 2,000 pilots this year.

Last year, United began teaching the first students at its new flight school, the United Aviate Academy, in Goodyear, Arizona. It aims to train 5,000 pilots there by 2030.

Fleet changes and inactive pilots during the pandemic created huge training backlogs at airlines as many Airmen transitioned to new planes or waited for slots to complete federally mandated recurrent training.

American Airlines, for example, decided last year to keep a pilot training center in Charlotte, North Carolina, open to handle the volume. United, however, maintained much of its fleet and reached an agreement with its pilots’ union at the start of the pandemic that helped it maintain the training of many of its pilots.

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