Within the next few weeks, every single one of United's 12,000 pilots will undergo a new retraining program—and not because they suddenly forgot how to fly. On the contrary, the carrier thinks its employees have plenty to teach one another.
"There's a generation of veteran pilots set to retire in the next five years or so," explained United spokesman Charlie Hobart. The rising class, which ranges from brand new hires to first officers with a solid decade of flight experience, should learn as much from older colleagues as they can, said Hobart. But the coin flips both ways: thanks to changing technology in aviation, veteran pilots stand to gain from relationships with their younger, tech-savvier counterparts. "It's a little like me and my dad," said Hobart about the generational divide—a sentiment many can likely relate to.
As part of the retraining effort, United pilots will be matched with mentors and mentees, re-certifying in a variety of skills, and getting up to date on the next-gen aircraft coming soon to United's fleet. Of course, every airline requires their pilots to periodically complete training modules and pass regular performance checks. "The current training and re-training programs are extensive," said Hobart. But this is just a little different. "A formal mentoring relationship acknowledges those key generational differences and provides situational awareness tools to bridge them. It's actually pretty innovative for the industry."