Delta Expands Pilot Pipeline Program

Delta A350
Credit: Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines has added two universities to its Propel Pilot Career Path Program, expanding the list to 13 and broadening its candidate pool for pilots it will need to meet rising travel demand.

Aspiring pilots at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIU) and Southeastern Oklahoma State University (SOSU) that meet Delta’s qualifications are now eligible to apply. If selected, a candidate is offered a job that includes accumulating flight hours at their universities and a seat either at a Delta Connection regional carrier or with the Air National Guard. Delta also provides one-on-one mentoring, using pilots from its active roster. 

“This is the beginning of two new partnerships committed to ensuring the success of the students at outstanding institutions and providing Delta with quality candidates,” said Delta pilot, Propel liaison, and SIU alumna Courtney Copping. “Seeing is believing, and the Propel program shows students a defined path of how to achieve their dreams of flying for Delta.” 

The Propel agreement is the first between SIU and a major airline. The agreement is for five years. 

Joining Propel expands SOSU’s extensive Aviation Sciences Institute offerings. 

“The aviation program at Southeastern has been a symbol of success for more than fifty years, attracting students from across the country,” President Thomas Newsom said. “This partnership with the Delta Propel Pilot Career Path Program is a great fit for our Aviation Sciences Institute and will provide additional career opportunities for our aviation students.” 

Delta launched Propel in 2018. The program’s first graduates are on track to join Delta’s pilot roster within the next year. 

Despite the recent global travel downturn that led many carriers to trim employee ranks through voluntary and other programs, many airlines say hiring to meet anticipated near-term demand is among their top priorities. Delta says it needs more than 1,000 pilots by summer 2022. Propel is one of several sources that will help fill the void, the company said in a recent memo. 

Sean Broderick

Senior Air Transport & Safety Editor Sean Broderick covers aviation safety, MRO, and the airline business from Aviation Week Network's Washington, D.C. office.