Flight Path: Aerospace pilots accelerate through ...

Flight Path: Aerospace pilots accelerate through major airline pipelines

Commercial airlines are increasingly partnering with universities on entry-level career programs in an effort to attract ready-to-work talent into their fold.

As one of the top aviation programs in America, MTSU has collaborated on two such partnerships—first with Delta Air Lines and more recently  with Southwest.

In April, MTSU’s top-flight Department of Aerospace joined the Southwest Airlines Destination 225° program as one of the newest partners—and one of only 12 nationally. Similar to Delta Propel, Destination 225° builds pathways for aspiring pilots from university aviation programs across the country to first officer roles at Southwest Airlines.

“Adding a career pathway like Southwest’s Destination 225° program provides a tremendous opportunity for our qualifying Aerospace students to become professional pilots for a major carrier,” MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee said. “With Southwest’s robust presence at Nashville International Airport, the partnership seems a natural fit for both parties.”

Diamond fleet expanded to 39 with eight new single-engine planes in 2023 (MTSU photo by Andrew Oppmann)

On a compass rose, 225° is the southwest heading. Destination 225° provides several pathways designed to meet future aviators at their current experience level and create opportunities to take them to the right seat in a Southwest cockpit, assisting the captain with flight navigation and operation.

“MTSU students will have the opportunity to pursue a career as a Southwest first officer with guidance, training, and mentorship as they complete their college education,” said Lee Kinnebrew, vice president of flight operations at Southwest Airlines.

Delta Air Lines and MTSU are now entering their fifth year as partners of Delta’s Propel pilot program,  which has partnerships with 17 aviation schools. MTSU was among the first universities to enter the partnership, encouraging Pro Pilot majors to pursue a path to earn their flight certifications, build experience, and become a Delta pilot in 42 months or less.

Delta’s Kelvin Mason, who works with pilot outreach and development, said the airline “intends to hire thousands of aviation professionals in the next several years—in addition to pilots—and we’re highly interested in MTSU’s ‘industry-ready’ graduates. . . . MTSU is one of the elite programs in collegiate aviation.”

Randy Weiler