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Cleared for takeoff

Partnership between United Airlines and MSU Denver provides clear path from classroom to flight deck.

February 6, 2018

By Daniel J Vaccaro

It’s a long trip from a university aviation classroom to the flight deck of a major airline. But that journey just got a little easier – or at least more direct – for aviation students at MSU Denver.

Today, the University announced a partnership with United Airlines that will establish a career path program for pilots. While regional carriers have offered pilot recruitment programs in recent years, this agreement is the first to establish a direct pathway partnership from a university aviation department to a major U.S. airline.

“I see it as a win-win,” said Mike McCasky, the managing director of flight training for United and an alumnus of MSU Denver. “Students get a great start on their careers and the airline gets access to a talented pipeline of pilots.”

That pipeline is even more essential in light of the most recent Boeing Pilot Outlook, which projected a need for 117,000 new pilots in North America between 2017 and 2036. Worldwide, the demand will be 637,000 during the same period.

A new partnership between United Airlines and MSU Denver provides a clear path from the classroom to the flight deck. Photo by Alyson McClaran

McCasky said that while the pilot shortage has yet to affect United, it is critical that the airline be proactive. The CPP is one way the company aims to reach pilots early in their training and give them a defined path to a career at the company.

Kevin Kuhlmann, associate chair of aviation and aerospace science, said MSU Denver is primed to meet the demand. “We offer one of the largest and most advanced collegiate aviation programs in the county and are well positioned to provide the airline highly qualified pilots that can address future staffing needs,” he said.

Kuhlmann also noted that the University has many proud alumni pilots as well as other employees who currently work at United.

While the partnership does not guarantee students a future job, it does put them on course for one. Essentially, if they meet a checklist of requirements over several years, they will be in line for an opportunity. Among those requirements is obtaining employment at a United Express CPP partner. There, they must meet the service requirements, required performance record and accumulated flight hours before having an opportunity to fly for United.

Fortunately, MSU Denver already has partnerships with four United Express carriers: ExpressJet, Mesa Airlines, Republic Airlines and SkyWest Airlines.

A new partnership between United Airlines and MSU Denver provides a clear path from the classroom to the flight deck. Photo by Alyson McClaran

The CPP will also include robust mentoring and coaching for future first officer candidates, so they can feel confident they will get the support they need to navigate each step of the process.

Students can begin applying for entrance into the program in August 2018. The minimum requirements to be considered for an interview include at least two semesters in the professional flight officer program at MSU Denver; maintaining full-time status with 3.0 cumulative GPA in aviation courses and holding a commercial pilot certificate and instrument rating.

McCasky is convinced that MSU Denver students will take advantage of this unique opportunity. The caliber of students is one of the reasons United chose the University over any other in the nation.

“MSU Denver students are hungrier,” he said, “and it shows in their work performance.”

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