(Bloomberg) -- United Airlines Holdings Inc. is wooing active-duty pilots who are preparing to leave the US military under a new program that will provide conditional job offers once they complete their service. 

The carrier hopes to boost the percentage of its pilot corps who come direct from the military to as much as 40% from around 19% currently, Michael Cooper, senior manager of pilot strategy, said in an interview Thursday. 

The plan is the latest move by US airlines to recruit aviators after the industry was rocked by a pilot shortage coming out of the pandemic, when thousands retired or left the career. While big carriers like United currently have hired enough aviators, some are still experiencing bottlenecks in training. Regional airlines, which lost huge numbers of pilots to larger rivals, are struggling to keep enough with sufficient experience to fly as captains.

“The ability to continue an aviation career into the civilian sector is a dream many of us have,” said Captain Kenneth “KP” Kirkpatrick, who served more than 12 years in the Air Force before joining United a decade ago. 

The new program, which started Thursday, can provide an evergreen “landing spot” in advance and a smooth transition for those leaving the military, said Kirkpatrick, who is also a lieutenant colonel in the reserves.

United expects to hire 600 pilots a year through the program, Cooper said. The Chicago-based carrier has hired 4,000 pilots in the past 24 months and plans to add more than 10,000 this decade. 

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