April 17, 2009

United Airlines-SIUC Aviation Career Day planned

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- About 100 Chicago-area high school students next week will visit Southern Illinois University Carbondale to preview the possibility of a career in aviation.

The University’s aviation programs host the 11th United Airlines-SIUC Aviation Career Day on Saturday, April 25. High school students interested in the aviation field will fly from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to Carbondale to learn more about one of the nation’s leading aviation programs, and one of the University’s signature programs.

After arriving at Southern Illinois Airport, students will receive introductory flights and will tour the aviation facilities. The students will then come to campus for a presentation by SIUC aviation alumni who work for United Airlines, and also tour the campus.

While the number of students attending this year’s career day remains about the same, the interest is definitely there. The program received more than 200 applications this year -- the most ever received.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and news crews are welcome to attend the event, participate in courtesy flights, and interview students, faculty and alumni. The plane will land at Southern Illinois Airport at about 8:45 a.m. For more information, contact David A. NewMyer at 618/453-8898.

David A. NewMyer, chair of SIUC’s aviation management and flight program, said an online application process likely boosted some application numbers. The interest level also shows the economy has not slowed down interest in the aviation field. SIUC is the only university that works with major airlines to fly students to its campus for an aviation career day event.

In addition to the students, the crew piloting the 737-300 plane is comprised of aviation program graduates. Another 10 to 15 aviation program alumni who also work at United Airlines will be aboard the flight.

This year’s event is particularly poignant. This is the last year the airline is operating 737’s prior to their retirement.

The plane that will land here honors Matthew K. Meier, a 1993 SIUC graduate in aviation management. Meier, a three-year letter winner for the football Salukis, worked for United Airlines in aircraft routing and scheduling when he died in September 1996 after a 15-month battle with cancer.

Meier's name is on the front of the plane below the cockpit -- an honor presented by Meier's co-workers at United a few months after his death. The “Matthew K. Meier Faith, Family, Friendship, Fortitude, Future Aviation Management Scholarship” is presented each fall during the program’s annual awards banquet.

The plane’s captain -- Scott Stoker -- is making his second consecutive flight as pilot. He is a 1994 aviation flight and aviation management graduate. The first officer, Kathryn Bauer, is also a program graduate from the mid-1990s.

The career day collaboration with United Airlines dates back to 1994.

“It’s absolutely vital. Sixty to 70 percent of our students come from Chicago. Events like United Day focus on that very group,” NewMyer said. “That we have a focused recruiting effort and we can physically bring those kids to Carbondale gives us really a great shot at recruiting those students.”

A significant component in organizing the career day event is the alumni connections with the airline. Mark Sebby, director of line operations, graduated from the program in 1976 and is celebrating his 30th year with the airline. NewMyer gives Sebby and other aviation alumni credit for the event.

The airline employs about 500 SIUC aviation program graduates as pilots, flight attendants, mechanics and flight safety personnel, “and we’re proud of the quality education that our SIUC graduates provide the aviation industry,” Sebby said.

“SIUC has been a leader in training flight students and coupling it with meaningful degree program,” Sebby said.

United Airlines Capt. Clarence Copping, who graduated in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in aviation management, is also involved with organizing the flight. He is a Boeing 777 captain and line check airman in Chicago. The airline’s goal is to “not only be a general corporate member of the community, but to also seed future aviation employees for aviation industry needs.”

The operation “is truly a unique event for students interested in aviation,” said Copping, whose youngest daughter will be a freshman in aviation flight at SIUC starting in the fall.

“They are able to obtain inside information on job opportunities and available education for the industry from professionals at no cost,” he said. “Many of us who participate as volunteers say we wish that this opportunity was available for us when were the students’ age.

“It is such a thrill for the students and their enthusiasm is very rewarding for us former grads who are the ‘old’ hands in the industry,” Copping said. “We were able to get a great start in aviation through the University programs, and it is a nice and unique way to give back to the students who will follow in our footsteps.”

Also expected to attend the aviation career day is retired United Airlines Capt. William R. Norwood, an SIUC alumnus who earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1959. A former member of the SIU Board of Trustees, Norwood served in the U.S. Air Force until 1965 and then started a 31-year career with United Airlines, becoming the company’s first African-American pilot and the first to achieve the rank of captain.

The itinerary for the day is:

  • 7 a.m. -- Check-in at Chicago O'Hare International Airport.
  • 8 a.m. -- Depart for Carbondale.
  • 8:45 a.m.. -- Arrive at Southern Illinois Airport.
  • 9 a.m. -- Group photo on the ramp.
  • 9:15-11:15 a.m. -- Aviation facility tours and introductory flights in SIUC aircraft.
  • 11:15 a.m.-noon -- Lunch.
  • 12:15 p.m. -- Students depart for campus.
  • 12:30-1:30 p.m. -- Aviation careers panel discussion; information on SIUC aviation programs and how to apply to SIUC.
  • 1:30-2:45 p.m. -- Tours of campus.
  • 3 p.m. -- Depart for Southern Illinois Airport for return flight to Chicago O'Hare International Airport.