Delta – the second largest commercial airline in the world – is encouraging its internal pool of non-pilot workers, college students at certain universities, and even younger folks to consider taking their talents to the cockpit. By tapping into these various niches, Delta hopes to slowly erase a significant shortage of pilots over time.
Baby boomers are already retiring at a staggering rate, and Delta’s 13,000+ pilots are required by federal law to lay down the keys at 65. Some pilots are leaving for other companies – another trend indicative of the war for talent.
Delta expects to hire more than 8,000 pilots over the next two decades. For years, the airline has worked on an outreach program that will train the next generation of flyers. The Delta Propel Pilot Career Path Program (DPPCPP) hopes to engage a wide-range of future pilots in three different segments: company, college, and community.
Company: Internal employees, such as flight attendants and customer service representatives, who can take a leave of absence to begin the long training process.
College: Students from universities with accredited aviation programs. Some of these include Middle Georgia State University, Auburn University, and the University of North Dakota.
Community: Kids and members of the aviation-related organizations. To this end, Delta has partnered with Conyers Middle School – Center for Technology Engineering, National Gay Pilots Association, and the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals and Women in Aviation International, among many others.
Beginning in August 2018, Delta is accepting applications from internal applicants and college students for the DPPCPP. The program projects a 42-month period in which pilots are racking up experience flying for the airline’s regional partners, private jets, military aircraft, and training other students. After that, they can become pilots for the mainline fleet.
Unfortunately, for those starting from scratch, flight school is not cheap. ATP Flight School, for instance, costs roughly $80,000 for an individual with little to no flying experience. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the median pilot salary is $74,740. The Air Line Pilots Association notes that pay varies dramatically between commercial airline pilots and those flying regional routes for smaller carriers. As Salary.com data confirms, there are many different jobs, requiring varying degrees of experience, that fall under “pilot."
It’s not clear yet whether Delta will provide its own funding, but the company notes that both universities and flight schools should have financial aid available to future pilots. As the war for talent wages on, it may take more than just the promise of a spiffy job to get employees to send in an application.
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