Students who graduate from Jacksonville University's Davis Aviation Center are now part of one of five schools in the nation to offer a career path from college all the way to the cockpit of a major airline.
Thanks to an Airline Pilot Pathway Program agreement signed with ExpressJet, qualified JU Davis Aviation Center students can start their commercial pilot screening process early in their schooling, creating a path guaranteeing them jobs as first officers with the airline.
Once the candidates have flown with ExpressJet and additional requirements are met, they will also be guaranteed an interview for pilot openings with Delta Air Lines.
ExpressJet, based in Georgia, is the world's largest regional airline, operating an average of 2,200 daily flights as Delta Connection and United Express.
Dr. Juan Merkt, director of the Davis Aviation Center, said the agreement is part of a new trend in the industry.
"The demand for pilots is growing, but the airlines need well-qualified candidates who possess a broad-based education, and professional skills best earned at accredited professional collegiate programs like JU," Merkt said.
The agreement between ExpressJet and college aviation programs is partly in response to unprecedented demand for pilots spurred by a wave of pilot retirements, more international travel routes, proposed FAA rules changes and a strengthening U.S. economy. This summer, Boeing estimated that by 2031, global demand for new commercial airline pilots will reach 460,000.
"JU was picked for the program with ExpressJet because of its proven track record of producing high-quality graduates," said Dan Robertson, manager for pilot recruiting at ExpressJet.
As part of their curriculum, JU students complete a rigorous, airline-oriented flight training program in partnership with Aerosim Flight Academy and an intensive business curriculum that prepares them for their career as professional pilots.
"We have built a strong relationship with ExpressJet, which has hired many of our graduates in the past five years. Thus the signed agreement is a re-affirmation of this long-term relationship," Merkt said.