Pilots of the Future

Feb 1, 2019 | Defense Transportation Journal

By Tom Jones, Manager, Air Operations & Global Express, Communications, FedEx Express

In an effort to recruit the best aviators in the industry over the coming years, FedEx Express developed Purple Runway – A FedEx Pathways Program. The innovative program is designed to create a new career path for pilots to the FedEx fleet.

To address the anticipated pilot shortage, FedEx is working with two of our feeder operators to recruit and retain pilots with the goal of ultimately qualifying for the FedEx trunk fleet.

Working with Mountain Air Cargo and Empire Airlines, Purple Runway guides feeder pilots through the necessary steps to becoming a FedEx pilot. For eligible candidates, the structured program builds your career by offering: college tuition assistance, advanced training, PIC [Pilot-in-Command] time, and mentoring.

“Mountain Air Cargo is thrilled to be a part of this exciting opportunity,” said Craig Bentley, President and CEO of Mountain Air Cargo. “This program provides our airline with highly-skilled and qualified pilots as well as creates a pathway for these aviators to follow their dreams and join FedEx Express.”

After six months with the feeder airline and an associate degree, pilots are eligible to begin the program.

“Empire Airlines is proud to be a part of such a forward-looking and innovative program,” said Tim Komberec, President and CEO of Empire Airlines. “We believe this program strengthens our recruitment efforts and provides a pathway to one of the premier flight careers in the world, FedEx Express.”

The FedEx Feeder Network

The FedEx Express feeder network is a strategic component of the overall global linehaul network, serving markets too small for direct FedEx Express air linehaul service. The Feeder network is powered by over 300 aircraft under 60,000 pounds maximum gross take-off weight. These aircraft serve over 250 locations around the world.

The FedEx feeder fleet complements the company’s jet fleet of more than 360 aircraft. The fleet includes Boeing 777s, B767s, B757s, McDonnell Douglas MD11s, MD10s, Airbus 300s and Airbus 310s.

FedEx continues to modernize its feeder fleet with the recent purchase of the ATR 72-600F aircraft, as well as the newly designed Cessna SkyCourier 408 aircraft, both scheduled for delivery in 2020.

“These aircraft purchases are part of our long-term feeder strategy,” said Greg Hall, Executive Vice President of Air Operations, FedEx Express. “That strategy not only improves our fuel efficiency and fleet reliability, but thanks to the collaborative training program through Purple Runway, we are creating a reliable pipeline of well-qualified pilot applicants, leveraging the experience they will gain in our feeder system.”

FedEx Purple Runway Scholarship Program

To help ease the financial burden of rising education costs, FedEx is providing $2.5 million in grants for students attending universities and technical schools around the country. The grants will go toward dedicated aviation scholarships at the University of Memphis, Delta State University, University of North Dakota, Indiana State University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Tennessee College of Applied Technology and Arkansas State University.

The scholarships will provide valuable education and training for aspiring pilots, aircraft maintenance technicians and other aviation professionals.

“As our nation faces a critical pilot shortage, the generous gift from FedEx Express to financially support our students pursuing their flight instructor certification is crucial to our continued success in training the next generation of professional aviators,” said University of North Dakota Aerospace Associate Dean Elizabeth Bjerke. “We are excited to be part of the FedEx Purple Runway Aviation Scholarship Program.”


To learn more about Purple Runway-A FedEx Pathways Program, visit fedexpurplerunway.com.

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