April 25, 2012

United Airlines-SIU Career Day set for April 28

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Approximately 119 high school students this weekend will learn about possible aviation careers and also hear of the affection that alumni have for Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s nationally recognized aviation program.

For Neil White, the first officer for Saturday’s flight from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, the chance to show off the company and the University is important.  White earned his degree in aviation management in 1992, and was an intern with the airline while still in school.

“The intern program allows you to interact with leaders of the airline and see the day-to-day operations,” White said.  “I hope students see what a great in-state University they have, and the opportunities that are available to them at SIU.”

The aviation program hosts the annual “United Airlines-SIU Career Day” on Saturday, April 28.  Officials anticipate the 144-seat A320 Airbus will touch down at Southern Illinois Airport at about 8:45 a.m. Capt. Chris Sheriff will pilot the plane during the 45-minute flight.

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 event is “a unique way for us to get our program in front of the kids and show off SIU,” said David A. NewMyer, chair of the Department of Aviation Management and Flight.  “The alumni do all they can to treat them special … and talk about SIU very fondly.”

In addition to the six-member crew, another 15 SIU Carbondale aviation program alumni who work for United Airlines, and eight volunteers from the University, will be aboard, NewMyer said.  United Airlines and Continental Airlines integrated operations after a merger in 2010, and the plane will feature a new United Airlines livery on the tail.

This is the 14th aviation day affiliated with United Airlines, dating back to 1994. Suspended in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the program resumed in 2007.

SIU Carbondale is the only university that works with major airlines to fly students to its campus for an aviation career day event.  Alumni who come include pilots, dispatchers, mechanics, flight attendants, and others.

Seeing the success of former students, some who learned to execute touch-and-go maneuvers while a student here, is a “reaffirmation of our program by an industry titan,” NewMyer said.  “They think a lot of our program.  They are our home-state airline.  We are trying to be partners with them. United is also in a whole new era of growth and development because of their merger with Continental.”

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

After the students arrive at Southern Illinois Airport they will tour aviation facilities. Approximately 75 students will receive introductory flights, some in the program’s newest Cessna 172R Skyhawk planes that feature glass instrument cockpits.

Current students in each of the aviation programs, including members of the defending national champion Flying Salukis, will pair with the visiting students during the campus tour.  The tour includes a presentation on aviation careers by SIU Carbondale aviation alumni who work for the airline.

Because of scheduling it is unlikely the students will tour the nearly 230,000-square-foot Transportation Education Center, NewMyer said.  The facility will house the University’s nationally recognized aviation and automotive programs at the airport. Work continues on the project that should be finished this summer.

The trip brings mostly Chicago and suburban area high school students in addition to a few community college students. Eight students from Air Force Academy High School in Chicago, all of whom are “very interested” in pursuing aviation careers either in the civilian or military sector, will be aboard, said Tammera L. Holmes, president of AeroStar Consulting Corp.

This is a homecoming for Holmes, who earned a bachelor’s degree in aviation management from SIU Carbondale in 2000.  A graduate of Proviso East High School in Maywood, Holmes participated in the United Airlines internship program while in college, and her first job was as an airport analyst with Landrum & Brown, a leading aviation consulting firm.  Holmes credits NewMyer with encouraging her to pursue an aviation management career.  In addition, a class at SIU Carbondale in airport planning “opened my eyes up to the world of aviation I never knew, the thousands of jobs outside of the cockpit,” she said.

For many students, the visit marks the first airplane flight, Holmes said.  She decided on an aviation career at 16 after an introductory flight by the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles Program, sponsored by Tuskegee Airman Inc.

“I am so excited for not only my cadets, but also all of the students who will be participating because I know first-hand what taking flight can do for a young person,” Holmes said.  “Somewhere between takeoff and landing, they find their purpose, they find their passion, and they find a reason to dream bigger than before.  I know I did at 16 and I still do.”

United Airlines Capt. Clarence Copping graduated in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in aviation management from SIU Carbondale, and is a Boeing 777 captain and line check airman instructor.  The corporate sponsorship, and help from alumni and other United Airlines employees, is a way to “give back to the students we serve, our schools, and our transportation industry,” he said.  Copping has been a pilot for 40 years, the last 33 with United Airlines.

“Aviation’s future requires an increasing amount of personnel and this event we hope is the starting path for many,” Copping said.  He was introduced to aviation professionals while in high school.

“Having their mentoring so early in life help set me on my career path early, and that is what I and other employees hope to see happen for the students we bring to SIU,” Copping said.  “What has become a yearly opportunity through the work and generosity of many is a unique effort that United and SIU can be very proud.”

Copping’s youngest daughter, Courtney, is a junior in the University’s aviation program, and is working on her instructor and multi-engine certificate and rating among other course requirements.  A third-generation aviator in the family -- both grandfathers were military pilots and her mother was a flight attendant -- Copping is also a member of the Flying Salukis.

Copping said that it wasn’t until his daughter’s junior year in high school that he began to see her interest with aviation and the SIU Carbondale program. By her senior year in high school she wanted to move on to a college flight program and career as a pilot, Copping said.

“Up until her coming to us about flying I never suggested a career in aviation,” Copping said.  “As a pilot and parent I know that someone in aviation, to be safe, needs to be the best they can be.  To be the best you can you have to have the personal interest and desire that is part of one’s personal makeup and not just wished upon by others.”

Capt. Chris Sheriff, a 1988 aviation management program graduate, will pilot the plane this year.  Sheriff, who began flying when he was 15, has been with United Airlines for 22 years and became a captain in 1997.  Sheriff’s son, who is also in high school, will be along, and have a chance to look at the University and campus.

“I’m excited.  It’s been awhile since I’ve been to the Carbondale airport and the SIU campus,” he said.  “I’m excited for all of the kids.  Being able to look at a large university will be a big plus for them.”

It is important for students to learn the value of a college degree, how much SIU Carbondale has to offer, and the “hands-on programs” the University has for a number of degrees, including aviation technologies and aviation flight, Sheriff said.  Among the things that impressed Sheriff was the beauty of the campus, and the “conduciveness to learning and recreational activities,” he said.

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.
  • 9:10 a.m. -- Group photo on the ramp.
  • 9:15 to 11:15 a.m. -- Aviation facility tours and introductory flights in SIU Carbondale aviation aircraft.
  • 11:15 a.m. to noon -- Lunch, main terminal, Southern Illinois Airport.
  • 12:15 p.m. -- Students depart for campus.
  • 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. -- Aviation careers panel discussion; presentation on SIU Carbondale aviation programs and how to apply to the University. Lawson Hall, room 151.
  • 1:30 to 2:45 p.m. -- Tours of campus, including the SIU Carbondale Recreation Center.
  • 3:30 p.m. -- Return to Southern Illinois Airport.
  • 4:30 p.m. -- Depart for Chicago.
  • 5:30 p.m. -- Arrive at Chicago O’Hare International Airport.