MTSU, Southwest Airlines partner in Destination 225° pilot recruiting program

Apr 26, 2023 at 03:04 pm by WGNS News

MTSU professional pilot majors fly Diamond Aircraft DA40 (MTSU file photo by J. Intintoli)

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Middle Tennessee State University’s highly touted Department of Aerospace joined the Southwest Airlines Destination 225° program on Wednesday, April 26, as one of the newest partners in the airline’s unique First Officer development and recruitment program.

Destination 225° builds pathways for aspiring pilots from university aviation programs across the country to First Officer roles at Southwest Airlines.


On a compass rose, 225° is the southwest heading. The Destination 225° program provides several pathways designed to meet future aviators where they are at their current experience level and create opportunities to take them to the right seat in a Southwest aircraft.

With 900 professional flight majors, MTSU aerospace students will have access to a pathway that leads to becoming competitively qualified for a commercial pilot career at Southwest. The Destination 225° program includes pilot pathways for those just starting to fly, those working on university degrees and those already building time toward their Airline Transport Pilot certificates.

“We are proud to welcome Middle Tennessee State University as they join Southwest’s pilot pathways program, Destination 225˚, through our university pathway,” said Lee Kinnebrew, vice president of flight operations at Southwest Airlines. “MTSU students will have the opportunity to pursue a career as a Southwest First Officer with guidance, training, and mentorship as they complete their college education.”

In the aviation industry, a first officer is a commercial airline pilot who works in the cockpit with the captain to assist them with flight navigation and operation. They sit in the right seat and are the second in command.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee said the university’s “Aerospace Department provides one of the highest quality pilot training programs in the nation, if not the world, and partnering with a major airline like Southwest is another testament to its excellent reputation.

“Adding a career pathway like Southwest's Destination 225° program provides a tremendous opportunity for our qualifying aerospace students to become professional pilots for a major carrier. With Southwest's robust presence at Nashville International Airport, the partnership seems a natural fit for both parties.”

MTSU Aerospace Chair Chaminda Prelis said the partnership “is an excellent opportunity and the latest in many unique endeavors supporting our students’ career goals. Programs like Destination 225° are a fantastic way for our students to embark on fulfilling their career aspirations after graduation. We look forward to a long and prosperous partnership with Southwest Airlines.”

MTSU joins current Destination 225° university partners Angelo State University, Arizona State University, University of Auburn, Kent State University, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Texas Southern University, the University of Nebraska-Omaha and University of Oklahoma.

For more information on Destination 225° and university, training, and other program  partners, visit

Phenomenal growth in MTSU Aerospace - Because of tremendous growth in the professional pilot concentration, MTSU is seeking final approval to move its Flight Operations Center from Murfreesboro Airport to a new home at 600-acre Bomar Field/Shelbyville Airport in Shelbyville, Tennessee, in the next five years.

Learn more about the potential move at

In fall 2017, there were 881 students majoring in aerospace’s various concentrations, including pro pilot. Five years later, there are more than 1,225 students.

Undergraduate concentrations include aviation management, flight dispatch, maintenance management, technology and unmanned aircraft systems operations.

Master’s-level concentrations include aeronautical science-aviation education, aeronautical science-aviation management concentration and aeronautical science-aviation safety and security management.

For more information about MTSU’s Aerospace Department, visit

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