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United Airlines is planning a big expansion. It can’t do it without Denver.

Denver is home to United’s flight training center, where all of the airline’s pilots either start out and then cycle through each year. The facility is expanding.

An United Airlines pilot does a pre-flight check of the exterior of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft on April 27, 2022 at Denver International Airport. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)
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Did you know that every United Airlines flight connects through Denver?

OK, maybe not literally. But while every United plane may not land in the Mile High City en route to its destination, all of the carrier’s thousands of pilots get their initial training and annual practice at a Denver facility filled with flight simulators. 

That means Denver played a big role in your trip from Newark to Barcelona, San Francisco to Singapore or Pittsburgh to Houston.

And as United looks to hire 10,000 new pilots by 2030, in addition to the 12,000 it already employs, the airline is expanding its sprawling, one-of-a-kind training center in east Denver. 

A new four-story building will be built on United’s existing 23-acre campus in the Central Park neighborhood, United announced Wednesday. It will house 12 additional advanced flight simulators, as well as new training classrooms, conference rooms and offices.

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The project is slated to be complete before the end of 2023, solidifying United’s growing footprint in Denver as both an airline and an employer. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock attended a news conference Wednesday announcing the expansion in a sign of United’s importance to the city.

“We have big plans for growth — we have big plans to be the best airline on this globe and part of that is going to come through this facility,” said Marc Champion, managing director of the flight training center. 

The Denver facility, which has been around for more than 50 years, is United’s only flight training center. There may be up to 600 pilots training at the facility at any one time, as evidenced Wednesday by the constant carousel of hotel shuttle buses carrying people to and from the campus.

An United Airlines aircraft taxi on the tarmac on April 27, 2022 at Denver International Airport. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

“We start our career here — this is our first base,” United’s Chief Pilot Mary Ann Schaffer said. ”And we always come home to Denver at least once a year.”

The center currently has 39 full-motion flight simulators — massive multimillion-dollar machines that mimic a plane’s movement  — and 15 fixed training devices. After the expansion, there will be 52 full-motion simulators and 28 fixed training devices.

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United, which has a hub at Denver International Airport and has the most daily takeoffs and landings from the airport of any airline, employs more than 7,000 people in Denver, including about 1,000 at the flight training center. 

United says it also recently invested $825 million at Denver’s airport to expand the number of gates it has to 90, which will allow it to nearly double its daily takeoffs to 700 by 2025.

“Denver is an important market for us,” said Matt Miller, United’s vice president of airport operations in Denver. “The investment that we’re making here in the flight training center matches with the investments that we’re making out at the airport.”


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