April 20, 2010

United Airlines-SIUC Aviation Career Day planned

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- For Capt. Steve Nolen, the 2010 edition of the United Airlines-SIUC Aviation Career Day promises to hold a little more special meaning than previous flights to Southern Illinois.

Nolen will pilot a 138-seat, A320 Airbus onto the Southern Illinois Airport runway on Saturday, April 24, and likely recall his early flights in a Cessna 152 while learning to fly as an aviation student at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

“I’ve been really excited about the chance to fly the jet down to SIUC,” said Nolen, who will be among the SIUC aviation alumni offering first-hand insight into the nationally recognized program to more than 110 Chicago-area high school and community college students.

“I’ve attended most of the alumni days, and have really looked forward to the opportunity to land a jet at SIUC,” Nolen said. “It’s been my dream for the last 20 years, and since Dave NewMyer will be on board I really want to make a good landing.”

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera 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.

The University’s aviation programs will host the 12th aviation day affiliated with United Airlines, dating back to 1994. SIUC is the only university that works with major airlines to fly students to its campus for an aviation career day event.

Students interested in the aviation field will take a 45-minute flight from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to Carbondale to learn more about the programs. After arriving at Southern Illinois Airport, students will receive introductory flights and will tour the aviation facilities. Students then come to campus for a presentation by SIUC aviation alumni who work for United Airlines, and tour the campus.

NewMyer, chair of the Department of Aviation Management and Flight, said interest in the program continues to grow. Within the first day of posting the online application in March, the department received 40 applications, with this year’s total at about 195, NewMyer said.

“We hadn’t advertised it to one high school and the kids were waiting for us to post it,” NewMyer said. “They know it’s coming. Their counselors know it’s coming. It’s self-advertising.”

The A320 Airbus is the largest plane used in a career day so a record number of students will participate. In addition to the six-member crew comprised of aviation program alumni, another 10 to 15 aviation program graduates who also work at United Airlines will be aboard the flight.

The event will also feature a discussion on the 50th anniversary of the University’s aviation program, and the upcoming Transportation Education Center. The estimated 200,000-square-foot facility will house the aviation and automotive programs at the airport. Construction will likely begin this summer with a two-year completion schedule.

“Someone who comes in as a freshman next year will see it by their junior year,” NewMyer said. “It’s a big recruiting draw now.”

Nolen, who is originally from Stonington, graduated in December 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in airline management and an associate degree in aviation flight. He participated in an internship program with United Airlines. He has been with the airline for just over 20 years and a captain the last 12 years. He is also an instructor on the Airbus fleet and recently was promoted to quality control check airman for the Chicago Airbus fleet.

“I have always enjoyed supporting SIUC, it’s such a great school,” he said. “The aviation training program did a great deal to prepare me for the industry. And the United internship was a fantastic opportunity. The curriculum at SIUC was extremely helpful in attaining my goals of becoming an airline pilot and I know that many other SIUC alumni agree.”

Nolen’s first officer on the flight, Mike Lowe, is also an aviation program graduate.

“The career day always impresses me with the attitude of both the students coming down with us, and particularly the aviation students who come to see and participate,” he said.

NewMyer said that about eight to 10 percent of students who participate in the unique recruiting event enroll in the program. The event does away with students and their parents driving nearly six hours to tour the campus, and gives students first-hand access to program graduates who are in the field.

“It gives these students a goal,” NewMyer said.

“The fact that a major corporation like United, in spite of the times, is willing to do this is just wonderful,” he said. “This is a gift that a major corporation doesn’t have to do in a terrible economic time and they’re doing it.”

The idea originated during a conversation among NewMyer, retired United Airlines Capt. William R. Norwood, an SIUC alumnus, and Hart Langer, a vice president with United. At the time the discussion was on the airline donating a 727 to the program. While that did not initially happen the subject turned to doing something that helps students identify careers, and NewMyer suggested flying students on a plane. The airline later provided a 737 to the program.

“I saw it as a way to get high school kids into an airplane because some of them have never flown before,” he said.

NewMyer estimates an average of 90 high school students each year participate in the United Aviation Day. He didn’t envision the opportunity would continue growing.

“We thought that first year it was a one-time deal,” NewMyer said. “We were hoping it would continue but this has been a major contribution of United Airlines to SIUC.”

NewMyer credits United Airlines Capt. Mark Sebby with helping resume the career day in 2007 following the program’s suspension in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001. Sebby has been with the airline for 31 years in several management positions and recently became labor operations director, where he works with a team to negotiate the pilots’ collective bargaining contract in addition to flying the Boeing 777.

Sebby graduated from SIUC in 1975 with a bachelor’s degree in business management. He held flying and management jobs at two companies before joining United Airlines in 1979.

The program is important for the airline and the students, Sebby said.

“This program provides an opportunity to give back to our community here in Chicago by offering an unparalleled vision to local area high school students with insight into an exciting career in aviation,” he said. “We have hosted internship programs over the years and have ultimately offered jobs to literally hundreds of SIUC graduates.”

Sebby said the airline has hired more than 400 pilots from SIUC along with many others in areas including aircraft maintenance, flight safety, and the operations control center.

“As these students formulate career plans I’m thrilled to be able to offer them a view of SIUC’s professional aviation programs to gain an understanding of what they may accomplish,” he said. “This program gives them a unique perspective through the eyes of individuals that have graduated from the program and have found professional careers following graduation.”

The itinerary for the day is:

  • 6:30 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 to 11:15 a.m. -- Aviation facility tours and introductory flights in SIUC aircraft.
  • 11:15 a.m. to noon -- Lunch.
  • 12:15 p.m. -- Students depart for campus.
  • 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. -- Aviation careers panel discussion; presentation on SIUC aviation programs and how to apply to SIUC. Lawson Hall, room 151.
  • 1:30 to 2:45 p.m. – Tours of campus.
  • 3:30 p.m. – Return to Southern Illinois Airport.
  • 4:30 p.m. – Depart for Chicago.
  • 5 p.m. – Arrive at Chicago O’Hare International Airport.