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Airline Pilot Shortage Solutions at United, Delta, American & Southwest

There is a severe airline pilot shortage looming on the horizon, needing solutions. Airlines are scrambling to prepare for the increasing demand for pilots.

Boeing estimates on pilots needed

Airplane maker Boeing speaks clearly on a potential pilot shortage. The company estimates that 645,000 worldwide airline pilots are needed within the next two decades. 212,000 of these pilots will be needed in North America.

Photo: Unsplash.

New airline pilot shortage solutions at US airlines

US airlines United, Delta, American, and Southwest have now implemented their own plans of action, with the steps necessary to help avoid a pilot shortage.

All the major US airlines are faced with the challenge of upcoming pilot retirements. Mandatory retirement for US airline pilots is age 65.

US airlines appear to have reached a common solution to getting sufficient new pilots to replace the retiring pilots.

The airlines have been implementing special programs, or a path to pilot employment, to counter the shortfall of future pilots.

Pilot development program commonality

The programs are mainly set up to train new pilots with no flight education or experience. Then they can gain experience through education, training, and then build flight time and more basic experience by flying for small regional airlines.

Of course, qualified applicants from pools of experienced professional and military pilots will continue to get hired through the traditional interviewing and hiring procedures.

Minimum flight time requirements for pilots in the U.S.

The minimum flight hours required can differ from airline to airline. However, in order to fly for a commercial airline, Federal law stipulates 1,500 hours of flying experience as a minimum, with some exceptions, such as for a pilot with a military background.

United Airlines Pilot Recruitment and Hiring

About half of United’s current pilots will be retiring within the next 10 years, reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65.

The upcoming retirements combined with the need for even more pilots for expansion plans resulted in United establishing their new path to pilot hiring with a program they call “Aviate”.

The Aviate Program at United Airlines

Aviate is a pilot recruitment and development program that United will use to help meet the demand for its future pilot hiring. The program takes the applicant from college training to regional airline flying.

United Airlines Aviate Program
Credit: United Airlines.

After 24 months and 2,000 flying hours as a regional pilot, the pilot qualifies for an interview and a job as a pilot for United Airlines.

airline pilot shortage solutions
From the United Airlines Aviate website. Credit: United Airlines.

Delta Air Lines Pilot Recruitment and Hiring

Delta is also set to tackle the challenge of finding the thousands of pilots they need for the next years.

The Propel Program at Delta Airlines

This program offers different paths to becoming a pilot for the airline.

  • The Delta Propel – Collegiate Pilot Career Path program is a pilot development program, offered at select universities. Successful candidates can receive a Qualified Job Offer (QJO). The QJO, in turn, will detail a defined path with an accelerated timeline to become a pilot for Delta.
Video: Delta Air Lines.
  • Yet another program-path consists of Delta offering its non-pilot employees an opportunity to become pilots. Here Delta is inviting its employees to get their pilot education. The name of this program is the Delta Propel – Company Pilot Career Path.

American Airlines Pilot Recruitment and Hiring

American Airlines have their own pilot development program, designed to develop future pilots from scratch.

The American Airlines Cadet Academy

The academy has pilot cadets train at one of American’s carefully selected flight schools. The cadet is also paired with a mentor from American Airlines. The mentor works with the student throughout the program.

To help finance the education the cadet can apply for a student loan through American’s dedicated “Discover® Student Loans”.

A pilot interview is guaranteed upon the successful completion of the program. The interview will be with one of the regional carriers that American Airlines fully owns: PSA, Piedmont, or Envoy.

Video: American Airlines.

Southwest Airlines Pilot Recruitment and Hiring

Destination 225° is the name of the Southwest pilot recruitment program. What’s the significance of 225°? Southwest explains that on a compass, 225 degrees is the southwest directional heading, leading to their airline.

Video: Southwest Airlines.

The Destination 225° Program at Southwest Airlines

The different pathways to becoming a pilot under the Destination 225° program are:

  • Destination 225° Cadet Pathway. An aspiring pilot can start from scratch with no previous flight education or experience. This program has a four to five-year duration.
  • Destination 225° University Pathway. This pathway is for college students attending one of Southwest’s four partner universities. An applicant can also complete a Southwest Campus Reach Internship.
  • Destination 225° Military Pathway. This pathway assists some military pilot transition to Southwest Airlines.
  • Destination 225° Employee Pathway. Similar to Delta’s pathway to becoming a pilot, by recruiting applicants through the ranks of the airline’s current non-pilots.

Featured Image: Boeing 757 cockpit. Photo: Captain Les.

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