SAN FRANCISCO, March 20, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Virgin America, the award-winning domestic airline, today announces the appointment of thirty-year aviation industry veteran Steve Forte as the Company's new Chief Operating Officer. Forte will be the California-based airlines first ever COO, with oversight of Flight Operations, the Operation Control Center, Aircraft Maintenance, Safety and Guest Services. (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20090123/VIRGINAMERICALOGO) "We're extremely pleased to bring aboard someone with Steve's impressive depth of operational experience," said David Cush, Virgin America's President and Chief Executive Officer. "He brings both a wealth of technical skills and a breadth of aviation management experience that will further strengthen the operating excellence of Virgin America." Forte spent most of his career at United Airlines, starting as a pilot, progressing through the ranks of Flight Operations management and ultimately serving as SVP-Flight Operations and Director of Operations, a position he held from 1999 to 2006. As a senior executive at United Airlines, Forte played a critical role in leading the company through complex business events including United's financial restructuring. Since then, he has served as President and CEO of two aviation software companies, including one (Naverus Inc.) that was acquired by GE Aviation. He has accumulated more than 14,000 flight hours in dozens of aircraft types, and is qualified on the Airbus A320, the family of aircraft operated by Virgin America. Most recently Forte was Chief Executive Officer of iJet Onboard, a privately-held provider of platform-based aviation software services. Prior to that, Forte was CEO of Naverus Inc., a global leader in performance-based navigation software. A former Chairman of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Operations Council and the Air Transport Association (ATA) Operations Committee, Forte has worked closely with global airlines, manufacturers, and regulators on a variety of industry issues.