August 02, 2007

Internships expose aviation students to industry

by Pete Rosenbery


CARBONDALE, Ill. — Three aviation students at Southern Illinois University Carbondale are benefiting this summer from a flight operations internship agreement between SIUC and regional air carrier Mesa Air Group.

The University and Phoenix-based Mesa Air Group, Inc. completed the two-year pact— with renewable options – this spring. Alex J. McGill, a senior in aviation management from Elgin; Patrick J. Sullivan, a senior in aviation flight from Algonquin; and Adam M. Stumbo, a junior in aviation flight from Darien, are working as paid interns out of the airline’s hub at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. The internships end this month month.

The internships give students exposure and experience with the aviation industry, said David A. NewMyer, chair of the Department of Aviation Management and Flight. The department is part of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts.

“It’s a bridge to the industry,” he said. “It gives the kids from SIUC a chance to see the airline industry; how it works, and gives them … a chance for immediate employment in the industry after the internship is completed.”

SIUC is one of the nation’s leading providers of flight operations internships for college aviation students — dating back to its first agreement with United Airlines in July 1987. The department currently has eight internship agreements in place— American, AirTran, Delta, Mesa, Midwest, Northwest, United and United Parcel Service.

NewMyer emphasizes the distinction is critical, particularly in recruiting students.

“Especially with parents, when they come and ask what we can provide to their daughter or son, one of the first things I will say is that we can provide them an excellent flight internship experience with different airlines in different parts of the country,” he said.

Christopher Lesnik, a 1997 SIUC aviation management and flight graduate, and the flight operations intern coordinator with Mesa Air Group, Inc., help in formulating the pact. Lesnik was an intern with Northwest Airlines in 1997, NewMyer said.

José R. Ruiz, an associate professor in aviation management and flight, also coordinates the aviation internship program. Students fill a variety of roles during their respective internships, said Ruiz, noting a total of six students are participating in internships this summer. The program is “very vibrant and diverse,” with students from other institutions even inquiring about possible internships — which are open only to SIUC students, he said.

“They are exposed to a variety of activities that are involved in the operation of an airline,” Ruiz said. “There is much more involved in supporting a flight from St. Louis to San Diego than just getting the flight crew. “