Flying Salukis among “top programs” partnered with Delta’s pilot career path


Tyne Haverkate completes her preflight on the Cessna 172R at the Southern Illinois Airport Set. 3, 2021 in Murphysboro, Ill.

Delta Airlines is recruiting prospective pilots at Southern Illinois University Carbondale through the Propel Pilot Career Path Program, according to an Aug. 24 announcement. 

Established in 2018, the Delta program has partnerships with 14 schools, all of them four-year universities or flight schools, according to their website.

 Manager of Pilot Outreach Kevin Mason said Delta started the program in anticipation of a pilot shortage.


“There was a pending pilot shortage early across not just Delta but the entire aviation industry both in the U.S. and globally,” Mason said. “Delta knew this was coming and put together a team back in the 2017 timeframe to think about how we should look at sourcing pilots in the future.”

In the past, Delta would have pilots from the military and various regional airlines to apply for pilot positions, and wanted to develop new sources to recruit future pilots from, Mason said.

“What we wanted to do was create a program where we could proactively recruit pilots,” Mason said. “The two different sources from which we do that are collegiate aviation students who are enrolled in professional flight programs as well as our own internal employees.”

Mason said Delta calls it a qualifying job offer (QJO), meaning the students must graduate, become an instructor to build toward airline transport pilot (ATP) minimums, pick from two pathways offered and eventually work for.

“We have an application window that we host once a year, usually during the fall time frame,” Mason said. “Students who are enrolled in our partner universities who are a junior, senior, or a graduate within the past six months are all eligible to apply.”

Interim Director of the School of Aviation Michael Burgener said this is their first partnership with a major airline and major international carrier.

“Our alumni that work at Delta contacted us, and asked us if we wanted to be a part of it when they heard Delta was doing this,” Burgener said. 


 He said a pilot has to go through various phases in flight training and certification before flying for Delta.

Because SIU-C’s aviation program is subject to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations students are required to have one thousand flight hours which they gain as a flight instructor after they graduate.

“When they get to one thousand flight hours a lot of the faculty will leave and work for a regional airline for a couple of years,” Burgener said. “What this program does is it allows Delta Airlines, a major airline which is the destination for most of my students here, to come in, interview students, and the ones that they want to hire they’ll go ahead and hire them.”

At the moment SIU-C’s aviation program has around 300 students flying, and Delta interviews the top students for a possible position in their program.

“It’s the same program that all the other students go through,” Burgener said. “ What these students do that apply for the Propel program is they’ll be interviewed by representatives from Delta Airlines, and the ones that Delta wants to hire they’ll hire as students, and progress through the different steps.”

Burgener said having a company like Delta helping students on their career path is incredibly valuable to the school.

“Delta only does this with top programs… The vast majority of flight schools are at two-year schools or even airports,” said Burgener. “ In order to be competitive in the aviation education business, you pretty much have to have programs like this.’

Staff reporter Jamilah Lewis can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @jamilahlewis. To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.