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United Aviate Academy Receives First Cirrus Trainer

The SR20 based trainer is the first of many for the ambitious ab initio program.

United Aviate Academy Receives First Cirrus Trainer

Around the start of this year, United Airlines began operations at the only aviation academy wholly owned by a major US airline, after purchasing the Westwind School of Aeronautics in early 2020. The Phoenix-based school now known as the United Aviate Academy will initially operate 25 Cirrus TRAC20 purpose-built trainers, and the first TRAC20 was delivered to the academy this week. United holds options on up to 50 more units of the TRAC20.

The Cirrus TRAC20 is based on the four-cylinder Cirrus SR20 model with several modifications aimed at making it a better flight trainer, including an interior made of wear-resistant materials and a novel “Landing Gear Simulator,” which provides a simulated gear switch, gear position lights, and even an “error mode” for practicing emergency procedures. Airbag seatbelts and rear seats for observers are also included, as is the Cirrus CAPS airframe parachute system.

The Aviate Academy is configured as the spearpoint of United’s pilot diversity initiative, designed to take students from all walks of life with an interest and develop them into budding commercial pilots. After reaching the Commercial rating, students are assisted to find time-building work with Part 135 operators identified as preferred partners and then expected to “flow” back to United as ATPs. United has stated intentions to train 5,000 students through the academy across the next decade, as it attempts to hire more than 10,000 new pilots in the same period.

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