Aviation partners with Delta to boost airline's pilot ranks

Contact: Paula M. Davis

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University is partnering with Delta Air Lines in its newly launched Delta Propel Career Path Program, an initiative designed to identify and mentor the airline's next generation of pilots by drawing from colleges, the company itself and the greater community. 

WMU College of Aviation students who are accepted into the program will be put on an accelerated path to becoming a Delta pilot; 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," says Dave Powell, dean of the college. 

According to the airline's news release about the program, 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.

Delta officials say this new, industry-leading program will complement the traditional, existing paths to becoming a Delta pilot and has three main areas of focus—college, company and community—to help support future aviators as well as current employees who have a passion for aviation and a strong interest in becoming a Delta pilot.

About the program

WMU is among eight universities with accredited aviation programs partnering with Delta under Propel's collegiate pilot career path.

"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 says. 

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

In addition to WMU, the other initial university partners are 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 say they plan to add additional university partners in the future.  

Delta will interview aviation students from partner institutions. Successful collegiate candidates will be provided a qualified job offer detailing a defined path and an accelerated timeline to become a Delta pilot. 

Students with a qualified job offer will receive an advanced engagement opportunity that will immerse them in the Delta culture on and off campus, including by pairing them with a Delta pilot as a mentor for the duration of their training and career.

Delta says the Propel program is the first in the U.S. to offer students their choice of three unique career routes and an accelerated timeline to progress to Delta, capped at 42 months, after:

  • flying for one of the Delta Connection Carriers;
  • a job-share flying for Delta Private Jets and instructing for one of Delta's partner collegiate aviation institutions; or
  • flying military aircraft for the U.S. National Guard or Reserves. 

More detailed information about the Propel program and its other paths to a piloting career is available online. Learn more about the WMU College of Aviation online or by calling (269) 964-6375.

The College of Aviation

WMU's College of Aviation is among the oldest such academic units in the nation, beginning in 1939 and evolving over time from a single program to its current status as a full academic college. It has been located since 1997 at the the W.K. Kellogg Airport in Battle Creek and has been the site of nationally recognized flight teams and state-of-the-art flight and technical training initiatives and research. The college offers majors in aviation flight sciences, aviation management and operations, and aviation technical operations. WMU's aviation college is the only comprehensive collegiate aviation program in the state of Michigan.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.