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United gives U.S. Army Reservists and students direct path to become airline maintenance technicians

Photo Courtesy of United

Calibrate Technician Pathway Program establishes partnerships with the U.S. Army Reserve, National Aviation Academy, Aviation Institute of Maintenance and Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics

On Tuesday, October 24, 2023, United announced the launch of the Calibrate Technician Pathway Program giving U.S. Army reservists and students from three prominent aviation maintenance schools a direct pathway to lucrative careers as technicians at the airline. In this initial phase of the program, United will establish partnerships with the U.S. Army Reserve in their Aviation Command Unit, National Aviation Academy, Aviation Institute of Maintenance and Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics with plans to bring in up to 300 eligible students per year.

This new program is in support of the airline’s United Next growth plan – where the airline expects to take the delivery of 800 new aircraft between 2023 and 2032. United has already hired more than 3,200 technicians in the last 18 months and plans to hire thousands more by 2026 to support all the new planes entering the fleet.

“Investments in new aircraft and facilities require that we also increase our pipeline of maintenance technicians that will ensure our expansive fleet, facilities and equipment are safely and efficiently maintained,” said Simone Drakes, Managing Director of Calibrate at United Airlines. “Launching this new program alongside highly regarded institutions whose high-quality training and aviation education will help us to reach our United Next and maintenance technician hiring goals.”                          

Once accepted into the Calibrate Technician Pathway Program, students must maintain a high GPA and strong attendance record to remain in the hiring pool after graduation. United will host interviews, open houses and career fairs at each of the schools. With the U.S. Army Reserve, United will host career fairs within the Aviation Command Unit’s local communities and provide guidance on Airframe and PowerPlant certification programs to reservists. Recruiting through the U.S. Army Reserve will also help support United’s hiring goals for ground service equipment and facilities technicians.

In partnership with United’s talent acquisition team, reservists and students will be invited to apply and interview at the airline’s Tech Ops Recruiting Center in Houston as a final step after completing all necessary certifications on their own. Participants will have priority screening consideration and benefit from United’s large ecosystem, including access to mentorship opportunities with seasoned maintenance technicians and its 42 domestic Technical Operations stations. In the future, the airline plans to expand the program to also include its United Express carriers and Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul partners. 

United Next

In 2021, United announced its United Next strategy anchored by the biggest aircraft purchase made by a U.S. airline in a decade – 270 single-aisle Boeing and Airbus planes – allowing the airline to increase the number of planes in its fleet and their average size. The historic purchase was followed by the largest widebody order by a U.S. carrier in commercial aviation history: 100 Boeing 787 Dreamliners with options to purchase 100 more. And the recent triple digit aircraft order gives the airline additional flexibility for its long-term fleet strategy and bolsters its leadership in global travel for years to come.

With these historic aircraft purchases comes unprecedented growth, including adding 50,000 new team members by 2026. This year alone, United is on track to hire more than 15,000 new team members companywide, including over 2,500 maintenance technicians to be based across our seven hubs and technical operation stations.  

The Technician Pathway Program is separate from the current Calibrate Apprenticeship Program and focuses on bringing in fully certified new hires. Last November United, in partnership with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Federal Aviation Administration, launched Calibrate, an in-house apprenticeship program to help increase its pipeline of maintenance technicians. The inaugural class started in Houston, followed by cohorts in San Francisco and Orlando. The airline will start accepting external applications in 2024, extending the program to its global employee base and external candidates increasing access to lucrative aviation careers. 

Key Calibrate Technician Pathway Program Partners

U.S. Army Reserve

The U.S. Army Reserve Aviation Command (ARAC) is based in Fort Knox, KY, providing command and control for all Army Reserve aviation. The ARAC provides air traffic services, airfield management, aeromedical evacuation, combat aviation brigade reinforcement, theater aviation support and coordination of aviation staging and onward movement to support Army or joint operations.

With more than 4,400 Soldiers, approximately 600 civilians and 230 aircraft in 12 states, the ARAC is one-of-a-kind command and control center for all Army Reserve aviation, air assault, air movement, aeromedical evacuation, and inter- and intra-theater transportation, and support of all FEMA emergency response within the U.S. The ARAC operates state-of-the-art rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft, including the UH-60s, HH-60s and CH-47s, and C-12s and UC-35s, respectively.  

National Aviation Academy

National Aviation Academy (NAA) is a globally recognized aviation maintenance training school focused exclusively on preparing the next generation of aviation maintenance professionals. With two Federal Aviation Administration-certified campuses in Clearwater, FL and Concord, MA, NAA offers a hands-on, industry-based curriculum with innovative technologies to fuse the theoretical with the practical. As a result, students become career-ready in as little as 14 months with classes starting every five weeks. Employers across aviation, aerospace, and parallel sectors consistently recruit NAA graduates, contributing to graduate placement rates of 96% in Tampa Bay and 89% in New England.

“Industry demand is a direct reflection of the vital importance of aviation maintenance technicians and their work, and the need to establish pathways connecting quality training to these in-demand careers is critical,” said Pam Van Sant, President & COO of National Aviation Academy. “It’s an honor to partner with United knowing the impact the Calibrate Pathway will have for National Aviation Academy students.”

Aviation Institute of Maintenance

With 15 campuses and 4,500 students nationwide, Aviation Institute of Maintenance (AIM) is known for providing high quality, hands-on training for maintenance, repair, and operations of aircraft. Certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC), the AIM program typically takes 21-months to complete.  AIM focuses on A&P certification throughout its program, including a 5-week capstone course which prepares students for the FAA certification exams and paying for the cost of the exams within the program.  AIM has graduated nearly 60,000 students and provides thousands of graduates each year to enter the workforce.

“Over the past two years, United Airlines has hired more of our graduates than any other airline,” stated Dr. Joel English, Executive Vice President of Aviation Institute of Maintenance.  “United gets to know our students and develops relationships with them while they are in school, and they have become true members of our academic community in Newark, Chicago, Washington, San Francisco, Houston, and all of the markets we serve together.  The Technician Pathway Program will help United and AIM further develop this relationship as we solve the workforce shortage together.”

Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics

Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics (PIA) is a non-profit, career-focused institution offering hands-on aviation training since 1929. Students attending the main campus in West Mifflin, PA, pursue Associate in Specialized Technology degrees in Aviation Maintenance and/or Aviation Electronics Technology. PIA’s campuses in Youngstown, OH; Hagerstown, MD; and Myrtle Beach, SC, feature targeted Aviation Maintenance diploma and certificate programs. Recognized by Forbes as the Top Two-Year Trade School in the nation in 2018, PIA is proudly accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) and certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Experienced faculty enhance instruction with real-world scenarios and guide students through hands-on projects endorsed by PIA’s industry partners. Through a wide range of student and graduate services, a nationwide industry network, and a reputation for producing exemplary technicians for nearly a century, PIA graduates have the tools they need to be successful in the exciting world of aviation maintenance.

“We are proud to be selected as a partner school in the United Calibrate Technician Pathway Program,” said Suzanne Markle, President of PIA. “It is exciting for us to align our students with this amazing opportunity, while providing United Airlines with the top talent needed for sustainable growth, which will safely and efficiently serve the traveling public.”

About United  

At United, Good Leads The Way. With U.S. hubs in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New York/Newark, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., United operates the most comprehensive global route network among North American carriers, and is now the largest airline in the world as measured by available seat miles. For more about how to join the United team, please visit and more information about the company is at United Airlines Holdings, Inc., the parent company of United Airlines, Inc., is traded on the Nasdaq under the symbol “UAL”.

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