Bloomberg Businessweek

A Fast-Track Promotion—With a Catch

Delta pilots willing to fly the “Mad Dog” can advance quickly to captain

Since almost the beginning of the commercial airline business, junior pilots have had to toil years in the second chair waiting to win a pair of captain’s wings. Now Delta Air Lines Inc. is offering them the chance to vault into a captain’s seat in as little as six months. The catch? The promotion requires flying an unloved, aging plane nicknamed the “Mad Dog” that Delta plans to retire in three years.

The McDonnell Douglas Corp. MD-88 jets are the oldest aircraft in operation at any major U.S. carrier. They come with quirks such as glare-prone skylight panels called “eyebrow windows” that were common when pilots sometimes navigated by the stars.

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