American Airlines has more than 2,000 applicants for its just-launched Cadet Academy pilot pipeline program, and plans to accept 200 candidates this year.

The program, launched in April, gives aspiring pilots a slot to train at one of American’s three flight schools for up to 18 months. The next step would be the chance to join one of American’s regional subsidiaries: Envoy Air, Piedmont Airlines, or PSA Airlines. Crucially, the program provides access to financing to pay for training.

American’s regional affiliates have pipeline programs, but those focus primarily on connecting candidates in college aviation programs with jobs, American’s pilot recruitment director David Tatum said. Speaking on American’s internal podcast, Tatum said candidates in the regionals’ programs have already solved the financing challenge and are focused on building flight time. The new academy’s goal is to develop more cadets for that pipeline, and help ensure American has a steady stream of pilots to help support growth and offset retirements.

“We had a great need to launch this program,” Tatum said, adding that American is not experiencing a shortage of pilots, but wanted to find a way to minimize the roadblock that the cost of flight training presents for an otherwise ideal pilot candidate. “Our main goal is to make flight training more accessible.”

Applicants undergo “a thorough selection process” that includes an organizational-fit assessment, computer-based pilot skills tests, and interviews with a variety of American staff, Tatum said. Candidates who complete the program will land interviews with an American regional carrier, although a job is not guaranteed.

Sean Broderick,