An overflow crowd of 300-plus very interested Department of Aerospace professional pilot majors, plus students majoring in other areas, heard the Delta Propel pitch Friday, Aug. 31, that could ultimately land them with career positions with the major airline.
They attended the official launch of the Delta Propel Pilot Career Path Program in the Student Union Ballroom, where a team of Delta pilots outlined the program’s guidelines and encouraged students to apply for the fast-track program.
MTSU is one of eight universities selected by Delta earlier this summer to identify and mentor the next generation of pilots because of looming retirements across the industry. Officials announced that the airline will be looking to hire employees in mechanical, management/leadership, information technology, engineering, meteorology and other fields.
“I really like the program,” said Christopher Dunnum, 22, a senior aerospace maintenance management major originally from Orlando, Florida, who now lives in Murfreesboro. “I like the fact how in-depth they are about things, and I would like to see them open up to more people.”
Dunnum, who anticipates graduating in May 2019 from MTSU, said he is working to obtain his pilot’s license in hopes of flying for the U.S. Air Force.
Lexi Davis, 20, a junior aerospace pro pilot major and MTSU cheerleader from Murfreesboro, called the plan “a great opportunity for everyone. If you are interested in going to a major airline, it’s a great way to get there.”
“This partnership announcement is a big deal. She’s getting ready to write her own ticket,” added her father, MTSU alumnus Jimmy Davis, owner of The Davis Groupe in Murfreesboro.
Delta Capt. Patrick Burns, managing director of flying operations, said the Propel launch at MTSU “is a way for Delta to reach out to identify students and get them here.”
Because Delta is facing a significant shortage of experienced pilots because of retirements, Burns said, the airline has already hired 4,000 pilots and anticipates hiring another 8,000 in the next 10 years, along with 20,000 new employees for related jobs.
“We like the best and brightest, and MTSU gives us the opportunity,” Burns added.
MTSU Provost Mark Byrnes called the partnership “an amazing opportunity for students to prepare for their careers and be a part of one of the world’s top airlines.” Aerospace department chair Wendy Beckman added that Delta “is a top place to work and a great place to aspire to work for after graduation.”
The company’s Brent Knoblauch, pilot outreach manager for campuses, and Ashish Naran, outreach manager for company and community programs, spent 30 minutes outlining the plan, which they said potentially allows the future pilots to finish their training in 42 months or less.
The application deadline for recent graduates and current juniors and seniors is 10:59 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 5, they said.
“There has been incredible response from students, parents and faculty,” Knoblauch said. “This is a truly holistic solution to meet the needs of as many stakeholders as possible.”
Elizabeth Keller, 21, a pro pilot major and flight instructor from Maryville, Tennessee, said the partnership “is a great opportunity for MTSU aerospace students. It allows students to have a better idea of the plans they have after college.”
“I’ve been trying to make myself stand out and be engaged for this opportunity,” admitted Jackson Dalton, 20, a senior pro pilot major and flight instructor from Atlanta, Georgia, adding that he was bitten by the flying bug at age 12. He attended the Aviation Career Enrichment Flight School in Atlanta started by retired Delta Capt. Julius Alexander.
Among the Delta group at Friday’s kickoff were MTSU alumni Eric Wesley, first officer on a Boeing 737, and Demetrius Beard, first officer of a Boeing 757. Both are college liaisons.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)