As a young boy, Mike Farinas would gaze into the flight deck as his family boarded a flight to visit family in California, awestruck by what he saw. His dad piloted Delta planes, and Mike dreamed of one day helming those same controls himself.
His journey would wind over more than 20 years, through the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, a stint as a ramp agent and time in the U.S. Air Force. He cleared every obstacle and earned a spot in the Propel Pilot Career Path program that allowed him to gaze once again upon the cockpit, this time as a first officer.
Mike, the program’s very first graduate, says it’s a journey that might not have even been possible without Propel. His journey to becoming a pilot begins in 2001, when he embarked upon his first flight lesson, hoping he’d one day be a pilot like his dad. Then, the Sept. 11 attacks shocked the world and derailed his education and dream of becoming a Delta pilot. He kept pursuing his degree from Georgia State University and moved to Miami to continue working toward his private pilot certificate.
In 2010 after earning his private pilot certificate, Mike moved back to Atlanta to begin a career as a ramp agent with Delta. He never lost his hunger for aviation, though. Mike continued to log flight hours as he moved to Delta’s Supply Chain team, and then felt called to put his flight training to use and join the U.S. Air Force in 2014.
Even that path wasn’t without roadblocks. Air Force leaders first told him his eyesight was too poor for flying; he’d need to pursue another career. Three and a half years, three denials and one Lasik surgery later, though, Mike finally earned a pilot slot. He served two tours overseas as an Air Force pilot.
“Along this journey there were numerous setbacks and low points when I thought maybe this career is not meant to be,” Mike said. “From the excitement of the first lesson to being pulled out of the school due to devastating national events outside of your control. It was tough to grasp as a young kid who just wanted to fly airplanes, but I realized at times there’s bigger forces at work.”
Mike heard about Propel soon after it launched in 2018, and credits Delta’s HR team with helping him navigate the application process.
“They were completely transparent and worked with me from day one. From the many questions I had about the program to helping me with military leave—they guided me throughout,” Mike said.
Ken Reed, Mike’s mentor and supervisor in Delta Tech Ops, said his student-pilot was an affable hard worker and described Propel as a “true bridge for Delta” that gives great employees a way to become pilots. The two have remained close, with Ken attending both of Mike’s Air Force wing ceremonies.
“Mike is always your go-to guy and gets the job done,” Ken said. Since launching in 2018, the Propel program has accepted hundreds of Delta employees and students. These pilots go through a rigorous application review, interview and testing process that meets the same high standards that all our newly selected pilots must meet. The program is the first of its kind in the industry, giving college students and Delta employees an opportunity to join the flight deck.
“The Propel program gave me an opportunity to see my dreams through. It gave me something to work for and to strive for,” Mike said. “I do not take for granted the fact that this program provided me a great advantage and will continue to better myself as an aviator given this opportunity.”