June 16, 2011

Cape Air program benefits students, recent grads

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Select students and recent graduates of Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s aviation management and flight program will soon have the chance to pick up additional experience as part-time first officers with a regional air carrier.
The cooperative agreement with Cape Air/Nantucket Airlines offers part- and full-time SIUC flight instructors a chance to log flight time and gain experience of working for an airline.
Based in Hyannis, Mass., Cape Air utilizes more than 60 Cessna 402s, making it one of the largest independent regional airlines in the United States, according to its website. In addition to the Midwest and New England, the airline offers flights to New York, the Caribbean, Florida, the Mid-Atlantic region, Micronesia, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
The airline also provides service locally to the Williamson County Regional Airport in Marion, and the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport.
David A. NewMyer, chair of the Department of Aviation Management and Flight, said he is pleased with the agreement, which both sides have been working on for about a year.
The first officer candidates will be chosen from one of two groups at SIUC: current seniors in the aviation management and flight program who are part-time flight instructors, or aviation program graduates who are full-time flight instructors. Separate interview and selection by the aviation program and Cape Air will begin later this summer. NewMyer anticipates training will begin this fall.
The part-time on-call first officers will complete the airline’s ground and flight training at Cape Air headquarters in Hyannis, Mass. Some of the ground school training modules will be available online, NewMyer said.
Cape Air will pay training costs, including lodging and transportation costs, and also pay instructors for the time spent training, NewMyer said.
“Cape Air is thrilled to partner with SIU on a program designed to introduce young aviators to airline operations,” said Dave Bushy, president of Cape Air/Nantucket Airlines. “Cape Air’s training is comparable to that of every major airline and we are honored to partner with SIU, which is one of the finest Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI)-accredited programs in the country. We expect that the students from SIU will do a tremendous job while working for Cape Air, with many progressing to careers at our company and throughout the rest of the aviation industry.”
The participating first officers will gain valuable “hands-on” flight time, compared to internships, where students receive simulator time, but are unable to log it, NewMyer said.
“This is also the experience of working with an airline. They are flying a schedule, getting up early and doing all the things an airline pilot does,” NewMyer said. “It’s invaluable to them, and they are essentially doing it while they are still in school.”
The program currently has about 28 full-time instructors and 12 to 15 part-time instructors, NewMyer said.
NewMyer said he does not know yet how many Cape Air will want to hire, but believes the plan is workable. The agreement states that the first officers must provide three days of availability per month and a willingness to work when called in order to remain in the part-time on-call program. Some of those days may be on weekends when flight instruction is not as heavy and the impact is minimal.
“Because of the opportunity it provides this is something we want to do for our students,” NewMyer said.
The instructors will work as at least twice a month, primarily in the Midwest region, which includes St. Louis, Marion, Quincy, Cape Girardeau, and Kirksville, Mo.
As the economy rekindles, NewMyer anticipates an increase in the number of commercial pilots that airlines will hire. For example, regional carrier American Eagle began hiring pilots in February 2010, and other regional airlines are following suit. Another factor is that larger airlines are hiring regional airline pilots, NewMyer said.
An advantage for SIUC flight instructors with Cape Air is that they train in Cessna 340 and 421 planes. The Cessna 402 that Cape Air utilizes fits well with what flight instructors are using, NewMyer said.
“It’s a good fit. It’s a real good fit for us,” NewMyer said.
The aviation and flight program has active internship agreements with American Airlines, Mesa Airlines, UPS, and Delta Airlines.