October 06, 2009

SIUC-American Airlines career day is Oct. 10

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Another chapter in Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s heralded aviation program will unfold later this week when an American Airlines MD-80 jet touches down at Southern Illinois Airport.

The annual SIUC-American Airlines Aviation Career Day will again bring former, current and potential future students together to showcase one of the nation’s premier programs. Organizers expect to bring about 120 Chicago-area high school and community college students to campus, Saturday, Oct. 10.

Students will fly from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to learn more about the aviation program and have the opportunity to talk with American Airlines personnel who are SIUC graduates. In addition to the students, about 12 American Airlines employees, six SIUC aviation staff members, and possibly 10 to 12 parents will also be on board.

This is the fifth consecutive year Chicago-area students are flying American Airlines to visit the University’s aviation program in the fall. Aviation career days also take place each spring.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to attend the event and interview students, faculty and American Airlines personnel. The optimum time for video and photos will be when the plane lands at Southern Illinois Airport at approximately 8:45 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 10. For more information, contact David A. NewMyer at 618/453-8898.

The aviation management, aviation flight, and aviation technologies programs are within the College of Applied Sciences and Arts.

Capt. Joe Domenico and First Officer Thomas Meagher will pilot the plane, and both earned flight certificates while at SIUC. Domenico earned a bachelor’s degree in 1982 in computer science; Meagher earned his degree in aviation management in 1985.

Another alumnus who will be aboard is Rob Cumley, who is American Airlines ramp manager at O’Hare. Administrative duties for ramp managers include creating a gate plan for O’Hare, which is assigning each flight to a gate that works with the shift times for each department, Cumley said. He also works with corporate real estate and facility maintenance on projects that include gate configurations when new fleet types come to O’Hare. Operationally, ramp managers on duty oversee everything from connection plans, day-to-day gating, equipment (aircraft swaps), and other duties, Cumley said.

Cumley graduated from SIUC in December 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in aviation management (airport planning), and has participated in each of the four previous American Airlines Career Days. Cumley said the program gave him a good foundation for the aviation business. He celebrates 20 years with American Airlines in January.

Cumley said he hopes the students on the flight recognize the importance of continuing their education, and will promote the University even if a student decides to explore career fields other than aviation. And if students have a desire to work in aviation, they need to be prepared for both the positive and negative aspects of the industry, he said.

This year, a record 181 students applied for career day seats. An online application has facilitated the process and helped increase interest, said David A. NewMyer, chair of the aviation management and flight department. The program received 35 to 40 online applications when the career day notice went online shortly after Labor Day, and before high schools received the information.

“What that tells us is that students are watching our Web site for this to be posted and they already know about it and are interested,” NewMyer said. “The high school counselors also tell them about it. That’s a good thing; people are watching for this and wanting to participate.”

NewMyer also points to the unique relationship the University’s aviation program has with American Airlines.

“Nobody really does this kind of event. You don’t have the opportunity to make a campus visit via jetliner very often,” he said. “The only thing that could make this better is to have the airport and the runway right over there on (U.S. Highway) 51.”

If the winds are right, the plane will fly over the highway and above the Homecoming parade that will be getting ready to start. It gives students a view of the city and the campus en route to the airport.

NewMyer is unaware of a similar career day collaboration between a university and a major airline -- a testament to the airline’s dedication to the event. The airline sets aside an airplane to show students the varied careers within the industry.

“What we are especially proud of is that a company of the size and importance of American Airlines believes it’s important to groom young people to bring them into the aviation industry,” NewMyer said. “The fact they are up there fighting the battle every day to survive and then they are saying, ‘You know what? We have to think of our future, too.’ That really says a lot about the company.”

NewMyer pointed out that a large percentage of students who enroll in the University’s aviation programs participate in at least one of the career days. About 60 percent of the 65 new students in the aviation flight program this year indicated they participated in an aviation or corporate career day.

The itinerary for the day is:

  • 6-7 a.m. -- Check-in at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, American Airlines terminal.
  • 8 a.m. -- Depart for Carbondale.
  • 8:45-9 a.m. -- Arrive at Southern Illinois Airport.
  • 9:15 a.m. -- Group photo at planeside.
  • 9:45 a.m.-noon -- Airport tours, introductory flights and lunch.
  • 12:45 p.m. to 2 p.m. -- Aviation careers briefing; briefing on SIUC.
  • 2-3 p.m. -- Tour of SIUC campus.
  • 3:15 p.m. -- Buses depart for Southern Illinois Airport.
  • 3:30 p.m. -- Check-in and passenger security screenings.
  • 5:30 p.m. -- Return flight arrives at Chicago O’Hare International Airport.