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Shaping the Future of Flight

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WMU College of Aviation

Backed by 80 years of experience, Western Michigan University’s (WMU) College of Aviation has built a reputation as one of the top programs in its field. Thanks to recent partnerships with top airlines, the college has become even more attractive for aspiring aviators.

Prior to COVID-19, many major airlines experienced shortages in their staffing and began establishing partnerships with aviation programs to create a talent pipeline to fill the industry’s needs. WMU’s collaboration with United Airlines’ (United) Aviate program is one such example.

“United has called Aviate the fastest pathway program, allowing professional pilots to reach a mainline carrier quicker than any other airline,” said Tom Thinnes, Recruitment and Outreach Manager for the College of Aviation. “Students can qualify by the end of their first year of college if they have their private pilot license.

“Once they get into the Aviate program, they have to earn their degree and pilot ratings from WMU. They will also be assigned a United mentor to help them navigate the culture of the airline.”

After logging 1,000 hours of flight experience, students pursue positions at an affiliated regional airline, where they will continue building time and experience. Once they attain 2,000 hours or reach the two-year mark in the program, they can move on to a position within United. Aviate’s goal is to train 10,000 pilots in the next decade.

Currently, WMU’s College of Aviation is one of three institutions that are partnered with both Delta Air Lines (Delta) and United. This unique distinction gives students in the college plenty of opportunities for valuable experience.

“It is a very select group of universities that have been chosen to be an Aviate partner,” Thinnes explained. “United has carefully monitored and vetted partners for the program. WMU was one of the initial seven aviation programs that partnered with Delta and one of four to partner with United.”

“Everyone in the program is helpful and welcoming,” said Kaylyn Smith, a student majoring in Aviation Flight Science. “My flight instructors are always willing to meet with me as needed and have stayed in contact with me through the pandemic.”

Entering her senior year in the program, Smith has considered applying for one of WMU’s partnership programs with Delta.

“I would like to do aerial photography to get the 1,000 hours I need for my restricted airline transport certificate,” she said. “From there, I would like to get into a regional airline and then maybe move on to a major carrier.”

With all of the opportunities offered, it is exciting to imagine how these partnership programs with major airlines will impact the future of flight.

For more information about WMU’s College of Aviation, visit its Facebook and Twitter pages.

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