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PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Delta "track" program: is it a good deal?

It was to my attention that ASA/X-jet and the University of North Dakota (UND) have announced a new Delta “track” program.

From what I understand, this is a non-binding program where a UND student goes through the ASA interview process while still in school. Upon successful completion of this process, the student must instruct at UND for 500 hours but will then get a class at ASA/X-Jet.

I’m told you then and go fly for ASA/X-Jet, and once you are deemed "competitive" with Delta, you are "guaranteed" an interview with Delta. There is no time frame from when you get to ASA and go to Delta, and no qualifiers as to what competitive is...

The question that came my way was… what should I do?

These are the thoughts bouncing around this students mind in his quest for an answer...

  • To get 500 hours of instruction it will take at least 8 months after graduation.
  • I could go to ASA, or if by the time I graduate, if regionals are getting desperate I could probably go to Mesaba at that point or by the end of the summer.
  • Although I heard recently Delta hasn’t been hiring Mesaba guys cause they don’t want to eat up their own regional-although I could see that happening with ASA too possibly?
  • So I could get on with a regional quicker, but wouldn’t be guaranteed an interview with Delta.
  • I would love to fly for Delta, but they are not the only majors I would consider. United, American, Southwest, Jetblue, Hawaiian, Alaska-pretty much anyone.
  • So my question is if you were in my shoes what would you do?
  • I want to get to a major as quickly as possible, preferably Delta, but it doesn’t have to be Delta.
  • This seems to be a good program, however its devised to help UND/ASA/X-jet the most- UND has instructors that will be staying here, ASA will have a steady stream of pilots, and Delta owes us nothing- they made it seem though as if a guaranteed interview is a huge deal, which, don’t get me wrong, I know it is, but they made it seem as if to be a pilot for Delta this is the quickest/best way to do so, and if you don’t do this program and want to be a delta pilot it will be much more difficult and take longer. I'm really on the fence with this one...
  • What do you think the best option is?

There is a lot of thought going on here and many options. But I’m going to add a few comments that will hope help you make a decision.

Your last statement… “This seems to be a good program, however…” Your “however” is most accurate on all accounts… except for the last. I’m curious who said, “If you want to be a Delta pilot it will take longer and be more difficult if you don’t go through this program.” UND? ASA?

I can’t imagine Delta taking that stance. Airlines want qualified, experienced, dedicated pilots, not those looking into getting on quicker via a short-cut. I also can't imagine any airline accepting a 500-hour instructor pilot over a 5000-hour line pilot, so I'm not sure that it would be more difficult to get an interview if you don't go this route.

Note: A “competitive” pilot at the last round of Delta interviews had an average of 7000 hours. Will this program make you competitive with those hours and experience? That "competitive" word sounds like an out clause for not granting an interview.


There will be a pilot shortage, and you won't need those 7000 thousand hours in the future. But next year? There's a lot of experience out there looking for jobs right now. And while I know you’re trying to get to the airline the shortest route possible, I think the best way to get to your airline job is with flying experience.

Graduating from UND, with your training, you’ll have everything you need but experience. Make yourself qualified, get your experience, and you will get an interview with one of your favorite airlines.


The ASA instructor spot may enable you a step up going into the commuter world, but you'll still need hours. What I witnessed at NWA with their instructors being offered flying spots… they got into training and it became their job and they didn’t have time to build their flight time. And later the rules changed and there was no flow-up.

Personally I can’t see the instructing route for 500-hours a fast track. Flying experience is. But instructing would be great experience. If you do it for experience… you’ll learn a ton… and the value will be there. That experience may come in use many years down the runway.

No experience gained in this industry is ever a loss.

Remember, when a really good deal tastes like a lemon, it just might be a lemon. But if you look at this as a good deal for great experience - not a shortcut - then you can get your teaching experience, go to the commuter, build your flight time, and get on with the airline of your choice. It could be a very good deal, and you could make lemonade. (Or margaritas when you're 21)

For all of you who've been there, done that, and want to chime into this decision making process, we would love to hear from you. Thanks!

Enjoy the Journey!

XOX Karlene


  1. Although I haven't been there and am not a candidate to be there, your answers sound very reasonable to me. I've found in other avenues of life that shortcuts frequently lead to dead-ends. And if I'm a passenger, I'd rather have a pilot with 7000 hours experience than 500 hours teaching.

  2. Wow, complicated! Sounds like good advice, though.

  3. Just to clarify- its not 500 hours of flying at ASA/Xjet then Delta- its
    1. 500 hours of flight instruction given at UND
    2. Flying for ASA/Xjet for at least a few years
    3. Interview at Delta when "competitive", which would be probably at least 3000 hours total time.

  4. Karelene,
    I don't know much about the pilot training but from what you wrote I definitely agree with David - no shortcuts, get more experience than classroom time and most of all, trust your instincts.

    Good luck. Hope to fly with you soon!

  5. Thanks for your comment David. I too agree with you. While I was that 500 hour pilot flying freight with Evergreen... not to say we can't do it. But, the airlines really owe it to everyone to pick the best of the best. I think they know that too.

  6. Anonymous, Yes... 500 hours instructing. And the flying a few years... is that a guarantee, and do you fly while you teach? I'm thinking that this might be a great opportunity. But don't be upset if it doesn't get you to your goal sooner. It will get you there, and you'll get great experience, just not sure it's as fast as we think.

  7. Thank you Angela! Experience is always a great thing. The best thing about this student is, he does a great job. He's going to reach his goals, and whatever airline gets him will be lucky. But how do we explain patience? I'm not sure... I don't have any myself. But I'm working on it.
    Thanks for the comment!

  8. Yes Linda... way too complicated. And, you thought flying was tough.


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