UNO partners with United Airlines to provide career path for pilots

Omaha Aviation Institute one of 14 in Aviate program in the U.S.
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Published: Nov. 10, 2022 at 11:10 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The large conference room at UNO’s College of Public Affairs and Community Service was filled, mostly with students who love to fly.

“You just get up in the air and all your worries (go away),” UNO senior Madison Parde said. “When you’re up in the air, it’s so calming, peaceful.”

But to do it for a living, there are lofty qualifications and costs beyond what the normal student faces. Which is why so many were on hand to learn more about the university joining United Airlines’ career pathways program for aviators, Aviate.

“They’re spending $50,000 on top of tuitions, books and fees and all that stuff to get the certificates and ratings they need,” UNO Aviation Institute director Scott Vlasek said. “Knowing you have a job at United Airlines after two years at their regional partner? That’s pretty phenomenal.”

UNO is now one of 14 Aviate partners nationwide, and the only one in Nebraska and neighboring states. The arrangement will offer flight instruction, education and career mentorships to those who qualify. The partnership with the world’s third largest airline comes at a perfect time for seniors like Gwendoline Dunlop.

”This is a lot shorter program to get from where I am right now to an airline than other traditional ones, where you might have to spend a lot more time flying for a smaller one before you can get to a major like United,” Dunlop said. “I think this is fantastic.”

There is a pilot shortage. The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects 18,000 openings for airline and commercial pilots in each year moving forward. United plans to hire 10,000 pilots this decade, and expects a high number of aging pilots to retire in the near future as well.

Denver-based 737 captain Monica Frain jumped at the chance to become senior manager for Aviate. It gives her the chance to meet the next generation of pilots and help them navigate the challenges ahead.

“I remember reading the job description for this role when I took it and my husband said ‘this sounds like they wrote it to you’,” Frain said. “I really have a heart for the next generation, I feel so blessed to have this career that I have and to have people that have always supported me, that (I do) whatever I can do to support the next generation.”

“Honestly, its selfish,” she continued. “I want to fly with the best, I want to fly with people that make this a great career, so what better opportunity than to influence the people I’m going to fly with the next 20 years.”

A University of Nebraska-Omaha press release outlines elements of the opportunity.

“Applicants selected to join the program will receive a conditional job offer from United which will be fulfilled once participants earn a Restricted Airline Transport Pilot license (rATP), which requires a minimum of 1,000 hours of flight experience at UNO and fly 2,000 hours over 24 months with a United Express partner. Upon completing these requirements, participants will then be eligible to transition to United as First Officers.”

UNO Press Release

“It’s so great to have that pathway set up for you,” Parde said. “You know, the light at the end of the tunnel that you want to reach, which is becoming a pilot for United Airlines.”

As for United’s choice to bring UNO under the Aviate wing, Frain said they are a perfect fit.

“They share a lot of the cultural values we honor at United Airlines,” Frain said. “They’re a leader in diversity, they have a very large population of women in their flight program, they’re also a high-quality training institution, they partner with high-quality training institutors they’ve got a solid curriculum, so its a number of those things, it was cultural, safety and a strong training background.”