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Prepare for takeoff: Auburn University Aviation partners with United Airlines’ pilot career development program Aviate


A new partnership between the Auburn University Department of Aviation and United’s Aviate program will provide students a direct pathway from the classroom to the flight deck.

The Aviate program, offered at only seven other universities in the country, connects aviation students with United pilots, travel privileges and career development opportunities. After graduation, participating Auburn students will fly for an Aviate United Express partner, and after meeting program requirements, will transition to United Airlines as First Officers.

Auburn Aviation chair James Witte said the partnership—announced at a ceremony at Ag Heritage Park on the Auburn University campus on Feb. 15—is a testament to the strength of Auburn’s program.

“The Aviate program sets a clear path for aspiring commercial pilots to follow. It further illustrates that the realm of professional flight is a challenging undertaking,” Witte said. “The Auburn program is based on work, hard work, and our commitment to flight and academic excellence. We require three levels of student growth: skill, knowledge and attitude. Continued emphasis on those three areas create the professional aviators we all strive to be.”

Aviate accepts candidates who display leadership potential, commitment to quality service and a passion for excellence in the aviation industry. In the program, students will have access to unlimited travel privileges through United, career development opportunities and flying experience with United Express partners. Participants also are paired with United pilots, who act as mentors and help students network.

“The professional development and mentorship provided in the Aviate program provide experiential learning beyond the classroom, particularly with non-technical aviation skills such as leadership,” James Birdsong, Auburn Aviation program coordinator, said. “The United Aviate program creates a symbiotic relationship between the airline and participants. The airline recruits and develops highly qualified, well-educated pilots; participants earn the opportunity for a direct path to a United Airlines flight deck–a win-win for both parties.”

Upon successful completion of Aviate requirements, participants will transition to United as First Officers, then begin their journey toward becoming United Airlines captains.

“We are thrilled to partner with Auburn University and are confident they will be an invaluable asset to Aviate due to their innovative approach to the aviation market, prestigious reputation and rigorous training,” Capt. Curtis Brunjes, managing director of Aviate and pilot strategy for United Airlines, said. “We look forward to working with them and welcoming more pilots to the United family.”

Auburn University began teaching aviation administration in the 1920s, and its flight programs are among the longest operating in the U.S. Each program and initiative in the Department of Aviation is built on a foundation of global awareness, technological expertise and a commitment to advancing the field of aviation. The Professional Flight major equips graduates with piloting skills and aeronautical knowledge.

“The United Airlines values of sound leadership, service, and dedication are displayed every day both in and out of the classroom and during training by our aviation students,” said College of Liberal Arts Interim Dean Ana Franco-Watkins. “With the Aviate program, we are excited to provide our students with another opportunity to become the next generation of leaders in aviation and inspire others to follow their example of excellence.”

For more information, visit the Department of Aviation and United Aviate.

Tags: Aviation

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