Ashish Naran, right, outreach manager for company and community programs, and Brent Knoblauch, pilot outreach for campus programs shared Delta’s vision for hiring great pilots and employees Aug. 31 during the Delta Propel launch in the MTSU Student Union Ballroom. MTSU photos by Andy Heidt

MURFREESBORO, TN — An overflow crowd of 300-plus very interested Department of Aerospace professional pilot majors and those from other areas heard the Delta Propel pitch that could ultimately land them with career positions with the major airline.

They attended the official launch of the Delta Propel Pilot Career Path Program Friday (Aug. 31) in the Student Union Ballroom where a team of Delta pilots outlined the program’s guidelines and encouraged students to apply for the fast-track program.

MTSU aerospace is one of eight universities selected by Delta earlier this summer to identify and mentor the next generation of pilots because of looming retirements, and it was announced the airline will be looking to hire employees in mechanical, management/leadership, information technology, engineering, meteorology and other fields.

“I really like the program,” said Christopher Dunnum, 22, a senior aerospace maintenance management major originally from Orlando, Florida, and now living in Murfreesboro. “I like the fact how in-depth they are about things and I would like to see them open up to more people.”

Dunnum, who anticipates a May 2019 graduation from MTSU, said he is working on obtaining his pilot’s license in hopes of becoming a U.S. Air Force pilot.

Lexi Davis, 20, a junior aerospace pro pilot major and MTSU cheerleader from Murfreesboro, calls it “a great opportunity for everyone. If you are interested in going to a major airline, it’s a great way to get there.”

Her father, MTSU alumnus Jimmy Davis, owner of The Davis Groupe in Murfreesboro, said, “This (partnership announcement) is a big deal. She’s getting ready to write her own ticket.”

Delta Capt. Patrick Burns, managing director of flying operations, said the Propel “launch at MTSU is a way for Delta to reach out to identify students and get them here.”

Because Delta is facing a significant shortage because of retirements, the airline has hired 4,000 pilots, will hire 8,000 more in the next 10 years and also hire 20,000 employees in the future, Burns said.

“We like the best and brightest and MTSU gives us the opportunity,” Burns added.

MTSU Provost Mark Byrnes shared how it is “an amazing opportunity for students to prepare for their careers and be a part of one of the world’s top airlines.” Aerospace chair Wendy Beckman said Delta “is a top place to work and a great place to aspire to work for after graduation.”

The company’s Brent Knoblauch, outreach manager for campuses, and Ashish Naran, outreach manager for company and community programs, spent 30 minutes outlining the plan, which includes potentially finishing in 42 months or less.

They said the application deadline for recent graduates and current juniors and seniors is 10:59 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 5.

“There has been incredible response from students, parents and faculty,” Knoblauch said. “This is a truly holistic solution to meet the needs of as many stakeholders as possible.”

Elizabeth Keller, 21, a pro pilot major and flight instructor from Maryville, Tennessee, said it “is a great opportunity for MTSU aerospace students. It allows students to have a better idea of the plans they have after college.”

Jackson Dalton, 20, a senior pro pilot major and flight instructor from Atlanta, Georgia, admits he has been “trying to make himself stand out and be engaged” in this opportunity.

Dalton was bitten by the flying bug at age 12 and attended the Aviation Career Enrichment Flight School in Atlanta that was started by retired Delta Capt. Julius Alexander.

Among the Delta group at Friday’s kickoff were MTSU alumni Eric Wesley, first officer with a Boeing 737, and Demetrius Beard, first officer of a Boeing 757. Both are college liaisons.

MTSU has more than 300 combined undergraduate and graduate programs. Aerospace is one of 11 College of Basic and Applied Sciences departments.