Pilot training simplified to benefit trainees
A long time ago, when I began my pilot training, there were no guarantees. So we did what we could to climb up the ladder and tag along with a crusty old pilot flying a ratty old twin, desperate to get some multi-engine time to turn into jobs flying slightly better ratty old twins. All this in the name of building hours and finally reaching that magic number that qualified us for the right seat of a puddle jumper with a commuter airline!
At that time, we were on our own, trying to do our best to find the correct path to an elite airline career. There was no instruction manual, career guide, accelerated training programs, or class in “Airline Culture 101”. All we had was a steady grind of flight instruction as we pursued the next level of certification, followed by whatever time-building aviation job we could find.
Fortunately, times have changed. Flight students now have the option of starting with zero hours and ending up on the flight deck of a legacy carrier. In other words, airlines are getting serious about increasing their pilot pool for the future. What a sweet deal!
Take Delta Air Lines, for example. Their new program is designed to proactively attract aviation talent to meet the forecasted high demand for professional pilots. Delta’s Propel Collegiate Pilot Career Path offers a defined, accelerated, and customized pathway to a Delta Air Lines Flight Deck.
Students who are enrolled in a participating university (there are 13 so far) are required to apply, complete initial testing, and pass an interview to receive a Qualified Job Offer (QJO) with Delta. From there, they can navigate one of three career paths after graduation:
- Flying with a Delta Connection regional carrier
- Flying with Delta Private Jets or their newest partner, Wheels Up
- Flying military aircraft with the National Guard or Reserves.
The partnership with Wheels Up is an excellent example of an innovative way to attract, retain, and develop pilots who are headed for the airlines. It’s an opportunity that pilots my age never even dreamed of, but I feel that more partnerships will be springing up all over the place as the pilot shortage continues to grow.
The old days of hopping into a Cessna 150 with steam gauges and VORs are quickly disappearing. It’s a great time to pursue a professional pilot career. I’m a little jealous.