Pilot Career Path Program: Delta Airlines Expands Opportunities for HBCUs

Last Updated on May 31, 2023

Representatives from the Propel Pilot Career Path Program and Delta Airlines pilots stand with the ECSU leadership team in front of a Delta Airline plane on the runway.
From left to right: Marques Brown, Pilot Career Path Program Leader – Propel, Delta Air Lines; Dr. Kuldeep Rawat, Thorpe Endowed Professor and Dean Science, Aviation, Health, and Technology, ECSU; Dr. Farrah J. Ward, ECSU Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs; Kelvin Mason, General Manager – Pilot Pathways, Delta Air Lines; Eric Hendrick, Director- Pilot Outreach, Delta Air Lines; Dr. Karrie G. Dixon, ECSU Chancellor, Joseph Besong – ECSU Liaison (and 767 First Officer), Delta Air Lines; Justin Mutawassim – ECSU Liaison (and 767 First Officer), Delta Air Lines; and Graham Bostrom – Lead Liaison (and A350 First Officer), Delta Air Lines

The Collegiate Pilot Career Path Program, which is Delta Air Lines' new opportunity for college aviation students, has chosen Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) as its second HBCU partner. At a formal event on the campus of ECSU in February 2023, the partnership was made public.

This collaboration is an important step forward as the airline continues to focus on recruiting diverse talent and creating equitable career paths in the aviation industry. 

“ECSU’s partnership with Delta Air Lines will provide a pipeline for Delta to recruit great talent to join their team; this is a win-win situation,” said Dr. Karrie G. Dixon, chancellor of ECSU.  “The presence of Delta Air Lines today is an indicator that we are soaring high. As Chancellor, I affirm that we will do our part to ensure the success of this program. We will offer ‘excellence as the standard.’”

Delta's First HBCU Partner in the Propel College Pilot Career Path Program

Delta asked Hampton University to take part in the Propel Collegiate Pilot Career Path Program in 2022. This is the first time the airline has worked with an HBCU. As the airline works to better reflect the diversity of the world it serves, this partnership helped to broaden diversity and builds upon the significant legacy people of color have contributed to aviation.

“Adding Hampton University as a Delta Air Lines Propel partner evokes a myriad of thoughts and emotions,” said First Officer Monique Grayson, an interviewer for the Propel program. “Delta says connecting the world requires that we first respect the world by seeking diversity, promoting inclusion, creating equity, and driving accountability towards these goals. Considering the history of HBCUs and that of Delta, I am proud to see the company doing just that. I am grateful to the individuals who have worked behind the scenes to provide opportunities to a group that has been underrepresented in this field for far too long.”

The History and Mission of the Delta's Propel Program

Delta's Propel workforce development program started in 2018. It was the first known pilot pathway program that a U.S. global carrier offered. Its mission is to identify, select, and train the next generation of pilots. Delta now collaborates with 16 colleges and universities across the United States to put students on a clear and fast track to becoming Delta pilots. Students who are accepted into the program are given a conditional job offer for a pilot position at Delta.

Students at certain universities can participate in the Propel pilot career path program. At the moment, only the institutions listed below are partners, but Delta hopes to expand this list in the future.

  • Arizona State
  • Auburn University
  • Elizabeth City State University
  • Embry-Riddle
  • 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

Eric Hendrick, Delta’s Director of Pilot Outreach, stated, “Investing in ECSU and other collegiate programs that create greater representation within the aviation industry is a key component of Delta’s workforce diversity strategy. And by creating these long-lasting relationships in the communities we serve, Delta also ensures the pipeline of top-notch pilots remains strong for years to come.”

What is a Pilot Career Path Program, and How Does It Help You Launch Your Pilot Career?

A pilot career path program is a way to help people get their flying careers off the ground. It gives them the knowledge, skills, and tools they need to be successful as a commercial pilot. The program also helps them understand the various aspects of aviation career development, such as flight training, aircraft maintenance, safety regulations, and more. 

Through this program, people who want to be pilots can learn about the different kinds of flying jobs and how to go about getting them. Also, the program gives pilots the chance to learn from more experienced pilots who can teach them how to navigate the aviation industry and do well in their pilot careers. 

Benefits of Joining a Pilot Career Path Program

Opportunities like the pilot career path program offer many benefits, such as access to pilot training courses, the chance to be sponsored by an airline, and even training programs paid for by an airline. These classes teach pilots the information and skills they need to do their jobs well. Also, people who qualify for financial aid or other kinds of help can often take these classes for less money or even for free. 

There are more benefits to joining a pilot career path program than just saving money on classes. Because of the specialized knowledge and experience pilots get from these programs, they can feel more secure in their jobs and have better job prospects. Also, a lot of these programs offer mentorship to help new pilots get through their first few years in the business.

ECSU's Aviation Science Degree Program Offering 

The only four-year programs in North Carolina for aviation science and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are at ECSU. There are five areas of specialization in the ECSU Aviation Science program:

  • Flight education
  • Aviation management
  • Avionics
  • Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)
  • Professional aeronautics 

There are more than 180 students in the program, and almost 60 percent of them are from a minority group. Also, ECSU is one of 40 schools around the world that are approved by the Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABInternational) to offer a degree program in aviation.

Elizabeth City State University and Hampton University are just two of the many HBCUs that offer aviation science degrees. To explore more options, visit the article that covers HBCUs that offer aviation programs.

Source: ECSU News Desk and Delta Airlines

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