Kelly Williams Black knew as soon as she took her first flight as a teenager: she wanted to be a commercial pilot and see the world. Today she’s a FedEx first officer after earning her aviation degree and ratings at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi. FedEx and other airlines are looking for more aviators like Black because rising costs of education, growing retirements, and industry expansion are combining to create a serious pilot shortage.
To address the challenge, FedEx Express launched Purple Runway, an innovative program designed to create a new career path for pilots. We’re helping two operators of feeder aircraft recruit and retain pilots with the goal of them eventually qualifying for opportunities at FedEx.
Feeder aircraft are part of the FedEx global linehaul network in 45 countries not served by direct FedEx Express® air service. Flying feeder planes, such as the ATR 72-600F and Cessna SkyCourier C-408 aircraft we’ve agreed to purchase, will help pilots gain the flight hours required to advance their careers.
We plan to roll out a collaborative program with select colleges and universities, like Delta State, to promote aviation careers. Purple Runway will also feature student scholarships funded by FedEx. Tackling the pilot shortage will not only benefit FedEx but also the entire airline industry and traveling public.
“I wouldn’t be flying for FedEx without the training I received at Delta State,” Black says. “I was able to earn my commercial aviation degree, my ratings, and accumulate hours as a part-time flight instructor. Purple Runway will help get the word out — flying is a great career, and we need more pilots.”