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College partners with Delta on pilot training

July 19, 2018
TAGS aviation / Delta / WMU
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Part of the airplane fleet managed by WMU's College of Aviation. Courtesy WMU

A college in the region is partnering with an airline to identify and train its next generation of pilots.

Western Michigan University is working with Delta Air Lines on its newly launched Delta Propel Career Path Program, an initiative drawing potential pilots from colleges, the company and the community.

WMU College of Aviation students accepted into the program will be put on an accelerated path to becoming Delta pilots.

The airline will begin accepting student applications in August.

"This is a first-of-its-kind program with a major airline, and the College of Aviation is proud to be recognized by Delta Air Lines as an initial collegiate aviation institution partner," said Dave Powell, dean, WMU College of Aviation.

Delta expects to hire more than 8,000 pilots to staff the thousands of daily flights it operates around the world, as other pilots approach mandatory retirement age during the next decade.

"This program comes at a critical time in aviation in which we are experiencing a pilot shortage, increases to educational costs for students who wish to become professional aviators and a significant shortage in certified flight instructors who would help train students," Powell said. 

"The Collegiate Pilot Career Path directly addresses these issues, and we are grateful for the support this Delta program brings to aviation education."

Seven other universities are involved in the program: Auburn University; Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Daytona Beach; Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott; Middle Georgia State University; Middle Tennessee State University; Minnesota State University-Mankato; and the University of North Dakota.

Airline officials said they plan to add additional university partners.  

After Delta interviews interested aviation students, successful candidates will be given a qualified job offer, detailing a defined path and a timeline to become a Delta pilot. 

Those with an offer will receive an “advanced engagement opportunity” to “immerse them in the Delta culture on and off campus,” including pairing them with a Delta pilot as a mentor for the duration of their training and career.

The program gives students three initial career routes and an accelerated timeline “to progress to Delta,” capped at 42 months: flying for one of the Delta Connection Carriers; flying for Delta Private Jets and teaching at one of Delta's partner collegiate aviation schools; or flying military aircraft for the U.S. National Guard or Reserves. 

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