Southwest Airlines to Aid Angelo State Aviation Program Grads Get High-Paying Pilot Careers


SAN ANGELO, TX — Angelo State University aviation students can be placed on a fast track to making six-figure incomes within five years of graduation. This is the result of a new partnership between the ASU commercial aviation program and Southwest Airlines.

Southwest created a program to partner with academic pilot training programs across the country to fill its pilot pipeline and called it Destination 225. The “225” is the cardinal heading on a compass, 225 degrees, or a heading of southwest.

Southwest’s Destination 225 offers selected pilot training candidates a fast track to the right seat of a Southwest 737 jet. The “right seater,” or first officer, is the copilot of a two-person airliner crew in a 737. First officers make low six-figure incomes depending upon how many hours the crew member works per year, according to Southwest pilot Lee Kinnebrew, Southwest’s Vice President of Flight Operations who was at the event to inaugurate the program.

ASU President Ronnie Hawkins was ecstatic when announcing the program. Flanked by Congressman August Pfluger, Texas Senator Charles Perry, State Rep. Drew Darby, and Mayor Brenda Gunter, Hawkins told the crowd of over 100 at the unveiling that the program is key to his personal mission of “changing family trees.” Training students to enter the workforce with high-paying jobs like pilot careers. Watch Kinnebrew and Hawkins describe the program and benefits for Angelo State students:

Pfluger, who served a career as an Air Force combat pilot, said the program will enhance national security. The worldwide pilot shortage has hit the military as well as the commercial airlines hard. Perry said that the program’s inauguration was a result of solid leadership in San Angelo. Many people had to come together to make the two-year-old ASU aviation degree program successful, Perry noted.

Senator Perry, who is from Lubbock, also quipped that, “Several years ago, Texas Tech saw wisdom in making the decision to come into the ASU system.” (It is actually the other way around, and there is friendly competition between the two communities and their respective universities).

Rep. Darby promised he will do all he can to ensure ASU’s aviation program is well funded during the next session of the legislature in 2023.

Mayor Brenda Gunter said the San Angelo’s airport needs more business and getting more air traffic to the airport is a part of her push for more “planes, trains and automobiles” in San Angelo. The ASU aviation program helps with her economic development push for San Angelo. She echoed Pfluger’s statement that the airspace is not busy and the weather is usually sunny and clear. San Angelo as an aviation commercial center makes sense, she said. Gunter said the limiting factor for future growth at the airport is the City’s lack of sewage capacity on the southwest side of Lake Nasworthy where the airport is situated. She said work is in progress to expand capacity of the citywide sewage and water system to the airport’s side of the lake.

Southwest’s Destination 225 selects students who graduate with pilot certificates of Private Pilot, Commercial, Instrument, Certified Flight Instructor, and Certified Flight Instrument Instructor to work at partner regional air carriers for about three years before moving to the right seat of a Southwest 737 jet. Among the regional carrier partners are feeder airlines like Skywest. Graduates in the program can also work for up to a year after graduation as a pilot instructor in the ASU flight school.

ASU launched its Bachelor of Commercial Aviation program in the fall 2021 semester. There are currently 25 students in the first Flight Operations class, with 50 new students expected to join the program this fall. Pilot training is led by certified flight instructors using a fleet of 12 aircraft and three state-of-the-art simulators provided by Skyline Aviation, which is owned by ASU alumni. The school utilizes the two-seat Diamond DA-20 Katana aircraft.

Other flight schools in the Southwest Destination 225 program include Arizona State University, The University of Nebraska, The University of Oklahoma, Southeastern Oklahoma State University (Durant, Okla.), and Texas Southern University.

Partner air carriers include Jetlinx, Skywest, XOJet, iAeroGroup, and Advanced Air.

Skyline Aviation at San Angelo's Mathis Field where the Angelo State University commercial pilot program is conducted.

Skyline Aviation at San Angelo's Mathis Field where the Angelo State University commercial pilot program is conducted.

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