Delta Launches Fourth Element Of Its Propel Pilot Career Path Initiative


The Delta Air Lines-sponsored Delta Propel Flight Academy, a partnership with Skyborne Airline Academy in Vero Beach, Florida, is now accepting applications for its first round of pilot candidates. Classes begin in June.

Delta launched its Propel Pilot Career Path Program in 2018 and the Skyborne link-up is its fourth pilot pathway. As for the first three, according to the airline, “Nearly 100 participants have completed Propel’s existing Company, College and Community pathway programs and are now flying for Delta, while another 700 pilots are currently enrolled in the program and working toward that same goal.”

Patrick Burns, Delta VP of flight operations and system chief pilot, said, “The Propel Flight Academy is the latest chapter in our longstanding commitment to invest in and create new, equitable pathways for qualified talent to enter the pilot profession.” Delta offers as much as $20,000 in financial support to eligible students.

Training at the Flight Academy will lead to private, instrument, commercial and certified flight instructor training, “delivered in an airline-focused way.” As soon as they receive their first certificate or rating at the Academy, students can apply to the Propel Pilot Career Path Program. If successful, they must meet certain performance milestones throughout training to continue. 

After receiving their certified flight instructor rating, Academy students are eligible to work at Skyborne in that role. As such, Skyborne will sponsor their Certified Flight Instructor Instrument (CFII) and Multi-Engine Instructor (MEI) ratings, “as well as a generous salary and private health benefits,” until they reach 1,500 hours, at which point they will begin flying as a first officer with one of Delta’s Connection Carriers.

Lee Woodward, CEO of Skyborne Airline Academy, said, “Our team is looking forward to taking Delta Propel Flight Academy students through their pilot training journey and into their chosen career with a global airline leader who shares the same values as us in training and customer experience.”

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Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. Unfortunately, CFI flight time is almost useless except building time in the log book. What these candidates really need is cross country time, night time and real instrument flying to consolidate their training and academics. Not flying around the “patch” doing touch and go work and/or in the training area doing maneuvers. They need to talk on the radio, change frequencies and fly in different air space than the local field. Fly in real instrument weather to experience it and also night flying to acclimate to that environment. I wrote a white paper about this called “Operation Slingshot”.

    • How is that any different than the amazing graduates from puppy mills like Embry Riddle and UND? They seem to do what it takes to do a decent job, don’t they? It’s just pushing buttons on the Mod Control Panel anyway these days. When is the last time you saw some RV builder bragging about installing his steam gauge panel? More like two axis Garmin auto pilot with more glass than a 767ER.

  2. Commenter Rik C. above is correct in that CFI time does almost nothing in building skills beyond those that preserve your life by learning to anticipate what the student will do wrong next.
    The military method of UPT / RAG / line flying is the best method to build the skills necessary to make well rounded, experienced crewmembers. I know, I lived that life for 23 years in the AF mostly flying big iron. It took a little planning and thought by “management” to not put the two weakest people together but that is what managers are for. The other factor that the military uses is the “training folder”. As the newbie flies, his/her good and bad points are recorded. The “managers” can review the progress at any point along with the written results of any formal recurrent training and required checkrides. This isn’t available in the civil world, or at least wasn’t when I was a line pilot / training Captain in 747s.
    The other issue is the lack of any real consistency in the level of training “quality” received by the individual. When I was hired by the 747 company, they were on the cusp of expansion and were hiring all the AF / Navy pilots they could get. They didn’t worry about the quality they were getting because they were extremely confident that the individuals were well and consistently trained and evaluated routinely to very high standards. This proved out to be a very accurate choice by that company.
    The company started having some quality issues when the military supply dwindled and they had to resort to hiring off the street, so-to-speak. The quality and experience of the right seaters I fly with dwindled rapidly. Fortunately, the vast majority were motivated to learn and tended to soak up the knowledge like sponges, especially when I took the time to explain the “why’s and wherefores”. Unfortunately, a few were simply lumps on a log that were happy to take up space and waste good oxygen and not learn. They would, of course, threaten to “sue” if the company made noises about letting them go. That, of course, meant that the Captain of the day was left on pins and needles for the flights trying to anticipate what would go wrong.
    Hopefully, all these “schools” are going to do a better job of both training and, at the same time, weeding out the “waste”. The problem I see there, though, is the bottom line motive for these schools that will cause them to pass through many of those that should be finding a different line of work.

  3. Automation has it’s qualities, but they/it are not omniscient. The coming crisis is going to be the D.E.I. disaster that is currently in the wings (please excuse the play on words). Airplanes only fly in one way. Screw drivers and hammers only work in one way. When you start putting people in places that they aren’t competent to occupy just to satisfy some dumb social engineering wokeism, disaster follows along very rapidly. It has already happened in the 737 Max cases and several other recent crashes. Look out below!