DSU signs pilot career training program pact with United Airlines

United’s Capt. Mike Bonner, managing director of United’s Aviate and Pilot Strategy, and DSU President Tony Allen sign the formal agreement that will make it possible for DSU Aviation Professional Pilot students to enter the Aviate Program which establishes a direct path for them to become United Airlines pilots.

Delaware State University signed an agreement with United Airlines to provide its aviation students an opportunity to enter United Aviate – a pilot career development program that provides a path to its flight deck.

University President Tony Allen and Capt. Mike Bonner, managing director of Aviate and Pilot Strategy, signed the agreement during a Nov. 16 ceremony on the DSU campus.

“Under Lt. Col. Michael Hales’ leadership, our Aviation program has grown threefold and is not just the largest in the HBCU community, but the high quality, low-cost provider among all aviation programs east of the Mississippi,” Dr. Allen said

“Our partnership with United Airlines and their Aviate program has been several years in the making and includes a deep, longstanding partnership with JPMorgan Chase and Regional Market President Tom Horne,” the DSU President said. “Between the three of us, there is an unwavering commitment to build a substantive, inclusive talent pipeline of pilots and aviation management professionals for many years to come.”   

“We are proud to partner with DSU as their longstanding history of attracting and developing skilled aviators incorporates well into our pilot recruitment strategy,” said Bonner. “Current and future DSU aviation students will benefit from this partnership in their journeys to becoming professional pilots.” s.


“It is our intention to populate United Airlines with DSU graduates as pilots and various other aviation Professionals at all levels of company management and leadership,” Hales said. “This launch ceremony is particularly significant because it expands United Airlines’ ability to gain access to recruit from our best and brightest students and graduates across all disciplines within Delaware State University, not just for our pilot graduates.”

As an Aviate university partner, DSU’s Aviation Program Professional Pilot students who meet the eligibility requirements can apply to Aviate and upon acceptance, receive a conditional job offer as a United First Officer.

To be eligible, DSU Aviation professional pilot students must have completed at least two semesters of full-time coursework or graduated with an R-ATP eligible aviation major at DSU, be in good standing at DSU, possess a Private Pilots Certificate, FAA medical certificate, and have no more than three primary training failures.

As a part of Aviate, after completing their undergraduate work at DSU, the Aviation graduates will continue by accumulating building experience towards becoming a United Airlines pilot. 

The Aviate participants will then have an opportunity to fly for a United Express or Part 135 partner and work their way to becoming a United Airlines First Officer..”

Delaware U.S. Sen. Chris Coons said “This effort will not only create new opportunities for women and people of color to become pilots, it will provide the industry with access to exceptional talent from HBCUs like Delaware State University, which are already working to graduate more pilots from underrepresented groups with the support of the bipartisan FLIGHT Act, which I introduced and helped pass into law.

Delaware State University joins Elizabeth City State University (N.C.) and Hampton University (Va.) as the first HBCUs to become a part of the Aviate Program.

The DSU Aviation Program currently has 110 Professional Pilot students and 47 aviation management majors. In addition, the Aviation Program recently launched its new Helicopter Flight Training Program with six students in its inaugural semester.

Established in 1987, the Aviation Program currently has a fleet of 26 airplanes, which are maintained at Delaware Airpark in Cheswold, the program’s base of flight training operations.