Delta is well-regarded as an airline, but the Atlanta-based carrier is also regularly named as one of the top companies to work for. Delta is proud of this fact and spends time selecting employees who are passionate about the company and who share their core values.
Delta’s pilot pathway program, Propel, is newer than other companies’ programs and has a few unique characteristics. Here’s a look at what it takes to be a Delta pilot and how Propel works.
About Delta Airlines
Delta was founded in 1925 in Macon, Georgia, and began operations in 1929. That makes Delta one of the world’s oldest airlines. It’s currently the world’s second-largest airline, and the company was ranked 113th on the Fortune 500 in 2022.
Along with its home base and major hub at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Delta operates eight other hubs around the US. Together with their regional affiliates, who operate under the name Delta Connection, they fly 5,400 flights with over 500,000 passengers daily and serve 325 destinations in 52 countries.
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The company operates a large fleet of Boeing and Airbus aircraft, and it’s the largest operator of several models, including the B717, B757, and B767. Unlike many other airlines, the company has traditionally acquired used aircraft and has a large MRO (maintenance, repair, and overhaul) organization to support them.
Delta employs 83,000 people, including over 14,000 pilots. Delta’s pilot pay is competitive with the other legacy carriers in the United States.
Delta specifically calls out its core values with the Propel program, which include honesty, integrity, respect, perseverance, and leadership. This commitment to values has made Delta a top place to work for many years, and it provides perspective to the company’s slogan, “Keep Climbing.”
The Delta Pilot Career Path Program is roughly divided into two parts. The original program was designed for employees who wanted to become pilots. However, in light of future pilot shortages and to expand the company’s pipeline, the program was expanded to include college students and time-building pilots outside of the company.
Propel is available to students at certain universities. At the moment, only the following institutions are partners, but Delta is looking to expand this list in the future.
- Arizona State
- Auburn University
- Hampton University
- Interamerica University of Puerto Rico
- Jacksonville University
- Kent State
- Middle George State
- Middle Tennessee State
- Minnesota State
- Southeastern Oklahoma State
- Southern Illinois
- University of North Dakota
- Western Michigan University
Students are eligible for Propel if they are juniors, seniors, or recent graduates (within the last six months) of one of these programs. They must have completed the Private Pilot and one other Part 141 course at that college’s program. Additionally, students must hold an FAA First-Class Medical and have (or be able to get) a US passport.
Applications for the Propel College Path are open annually between May 1 and September 8. Students must complete and submit a talent profile outlining that they meet the above-mentioned qualifications and a full application. In addition, there are monthly webinars available to answer any questions about the application process.
Once accepted to the program, students are issued a Qualified Job Offer (QJO) that details a path and timeline to become a Delta pilot. Successfully completing the steps outlined in the document ensures your slot as a Delta first office.
Candidates have their choice of three different career paths to get them to the flight deck of a Delta mainline plane.
1. Fly with a Delta Connection regional carrier,
2. Fly for Wheels Up, a major Part 135 charter operator, or
3. Fly for the Reserves or Air National Guard.
Regardless of the path chosen, you will need 1,000 hours of turbine time (750 hours for Reserve or Guard pilots) and can expect it to take 42 months or less.
The Connection Carrier path is much like other pathway programs. You are expected to teach for your college’s flight program as a CFI until you have Restricted ATP minimums and then work as a first officer at one of Delta Connection’s regional carriers (Republic, Endeavor, or SkyWest Airlines).
Alternatively, students may apply for a position at Wheels Up, a Part 135 charter company based in New York. Wheels Up is the second-largest private aircraft operator in the country and a well-regarded employer.
Delta Propel Benefits
Like many pilot pathway programs, Propel is aimed to streamline and accelerate the candidate’s career path. While nothing is for certain, the paths laid out in your QJO provide an excellent framework for achieving your dreams.
Unlike other pathway programs, there is no contractual commitment required of the student. Simply complete the steps as outlined in the QJO. If something better comes along, you are not committed to the program in any contractual way.
During their pathway, Propel pilots receive active mentoring from a current Delta pilot. Interestingly, you’ll keep the same mentor during the program, enabling you to build a great connection. There are also regular events that pilots can participate in to ready them for work in the industry.
Delta’s pipeline program is unique in a few other ways, too. Propel offers more variety of choices in how you can build hours. For example, it’s the only program with an option to fly for the Reserves or Air National Guard.
The option to work with Wheels Up is also noteworthy. The company is larger than most charter options. In fact, it’s second in size only to NetJets. While other programs offer a Part 135 path, candidates might be especially interested in working at Wheels Up. The company operates an enormous fleet of corporate planes, from King Airs to Gulfstreams, and offers many base and schedule opportunities.
Delta is being extremely selective with the Propel program. They aim to find candidates who fit the company culture and values and are excited to work at Delta. To this end, Delta is only picking the top candidates. Attending one of the listed universities is no guarantee that Propel will provide any benefits. For example, only 20 students were accepted to the program in 2021/2022 from Auburn University’s large flight program. The numbers are similar at other schools.
You can see the full list of Propel requirements and benefits on the company’s website.
View Other Airline Pathway Programs
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