This story is from the 2019 Access FYI: FedEx Young Innovators List. Explore more from this issue
Sky Courier flying across the sky

Purple Runway and the Pilots of Tomorrow

An industry-leading program from FedEx will help ensure a pipeline of highly trained and qualified aviators.

Sky Courier flying across the sky

The FedEx feeder network of more than 300 turboprop planes — aircraft such as the Cessna Caravan and ATR 72 — serves 45 countries around the world. It links FedEx Express to small and medium-sized markets, and thanks to the FedEx Purple Runway program announced in 2018, it’s going to help train the next generation of pilots.

$2.5 million

Amount of funding for the Purple Runway Aviation Scholarship program

“FedEx is initiating a new, industry-leading pilot development program to ensure a full pipeline of pilots for us and the industry at large,” FedEx Chairman and CEO Frederick W. Smith said at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi, where the program launched.

Through two feeder operators and participating university aviation programs — including Delta State, the University of Memphis and the University of North Dakota — Purple Runway will help pilots develop their skills and experience, including qualifying flight hours, for pilot job opportunities at FedEx. Last fall, FedEx announced the $2.5 million Purple Runway Aviation Scholarship program to help fund the Purple Runway pilot educational programs as well as maintenance certification programs needed for graduation and employment.

Beyond FedEx

Just last month, Lowe’s led a group of more than 60 companies in forming a coalition that aims to create a path to train tradespeople in fields such as carpentry, plumbing and painting. Called Generation T, the coalition pledges to lead workforce development initiatives — including pre-apprenticeships, apprenticeships and tuition support — to get ahead of what analysts predict will be 3 million job openings in skilled trades by 2028.

Manufacturing faces a similar challenge. That’s why companies such as Whirlpool and Honda are working with RAMTEC at the Tri-Rivers Career Center, a vocational school in Marion, Ohio, that trains and certifies students to work with robotics. “The manufacturing workforce in the U.S. has a shortage of 2 million workers,” Ritch Ramey, RAMETC’s coordinator, told Access last year. “One company told us, ‘We’ll hire your whole senior class.’”

Learn more about Purple Runway at

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