Delta to launch flight academy to train new pilots

Airlines will need to hire thousands of pilots in coming years as older aviators retire



Delta Air Lines is launching a flight academy to train the next generation of pilots.

The move comes as smaller regional carriers face a pilot shortage and airlines prepare for the need to hire thousands of pilots in the years to come as older aviators retire.

Atlanta-based Delta said it is partnering with flight school Skyborne Airline Academy to turn a 12,000-square-foot facility on Skyborne’s campus in Vero Beach, Florida, into the Delta Propel Flight Academy with classrooms and study areas.

The academy will be operated by Skyborne with oversight by Delta. It is taking applications now, with plans for a first class of students starting in June. Delta said it will provide up to $20,000 in need-based financial support to eligible students. It can cost $100,000 for the training to become an airline pilot.

Delta has been developing its Propel pilot career path program since 2018, establishing pathways to the cockpit for aspiring Delta pilots, partnerships with aviation schools and a program to encourage Delta’s existing employees to become pilots for the airline.

After completing about a year of flight training, students can apply to Delta’s Propel pilot career path program and work as a certified flight instructor for Skyborne. In the Propel program, pilots would work to accumulate 1,500 hours in flight time and could then become first officers at a Delta Connection regional carrier, with a pathway to becoming a Delta pilot.

Delta’s Propel program is designed with an accelerated timeline to become a Delta pilot, after flying for one of the Delta Connection carriers; Wheels Up; or flying military aircraft for the Air National Guard or Reserves: 42 months or less,

That’s on top of the flight training and the time to accumulate 1,500 hours, and the time with Delta Connection, Wheels Up or military. The time to accumulate 1,500 hours depends on the trainee’s schedule.

Patrick Burns, Delta vice president of flight operations and system chief pilot, called the flight academy the airline’s “latest chapter in our longstanding commitment to invest in and create new, equitable pathways for qualified talent to enter the pilot profession.”