Delta targets college students for future pilot hiring

FlightSafety International is one of the companies chosen to provide flight training to prospective Delta pilots. Source: FlightSafety International

FlightSafety International is one of the companies chosen to provide flight training to prospective Delta pilots. Source: FlightSafety International

Delta Air Lines is targeting college students and its own workforce to find future pilots with a new recruitment program.

Atlanta-based Delta said it expects to hire more than 8,000 pilots over the next decade, and is launching a pilot career path program to enable that.

Delta will interview aviation students at Auburn University, Middle Georgia State, Middle Tennessee State, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach and Prescott, Ariz., Minnesota State University in Mankato, the University of North Dakota and Western Michigan University for its program called Propel. Those selected would get a "qualified job offer" with a path to meet requirements to become a Delta pilot under an accelerated timeline.

The program will outline how students can start their careers flying for a Delta Connection regional airline, flying for the Air National Guard or Reserves, or working as a flight instructor and flying for Delta Private Jets -- and work toward a pilot job at Delta within 3½ years. Delta would also assign one of its pilots as a mentor.

The company plans to begin taking applications for the Collegiate Pilot Career Path starting in August.

Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi

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Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi

The airline will also allow its own employees who have private pilot licenses to apply for a leave of absence and work toward becoming a pilot for Delta. The leave would allow time to complete additional flight training, and to work as a flight instructor or as a pilot at a Delta Connection carrier for up to 3½ years before being hired as a Delta pilot.

For years in the airline industry, concerns have bubbled up about the prospect of a pilot shortage. Industry and community groups have worked on ways to encourage young people to consider careers as pilots.

But the challenges to becoming a commercial airline pilot as significant. The barriers include the cost and time required to go through pilot training and build up enough hours and experience flying to get a job at a major carrier, along with the financial turmoil and job cuts in the airline industry over the years.

“We listened to feedback from students, parents, faculty administrators and Delta employees to help overcome barriers for potential pilot candidates such as career path uncertainty and the Certified Flight Instructor shortage,” said Delta senior vice president of flight operations Steve Dickson in a written statement.

Delta said it is also exploring financing opportunities for employees and students, and will continue partnerships with aviation groups like the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, Aviation Career Enrichment, Conyers Middle School’s Center for Technology and Engineering, the National Gay Pilots Association, Women in Aviation International and other groups.