Air Wisconsin

Newest Arrival – Joe Miller, left, a senior in Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s aviation flight program from Chicago, talks with Air Wisconsin Airlines Capt. Michael McClintock Thursday at Southern Illinois Airport. An agreement between SIU and Air Wisconsin is providing a career path for aviation students who are interested in becoming professional pilots. (Photo by Steve Buhman)

September 06, 2018

Pilot pathway program with Air Wisconsin to help SIU students land jobs

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — An agreement between Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s aviation program and Air Wisconsin Airlines, a regional air carrier that operates as United Express throughout the Midwest and East Coast, is providing a career path for aviation students who are interested in becoming professional pilots. 

The university and airline formally introduced the agreement Thursday at Southern Illinois Airport. The pact allows qualifying students to join the airline’s “Airman Trainee Cadet Program” in “significantly less time” than students from other universities. 

Air Wisconsin began in 1965 as a regional airline to provide service between Appleton, Wisconsin and Chicago, Illinois. With 65 50-passenger, Bombardier CRJ200 jets in service, the airline has 350 flights daily to 70 cities including Denver, Colorado, Pensacola, Florida, Columbia, South Carolina and Washington, D.C. 

Several benefits for students with the agreement 

Airman trainees enjoy bimonthly paychecks, worldwide travel benefits on United Airlines, mentoring opportunities and an abbreviated First Officer interview process once they accumulate the hours needed for airline pilot employment. 

“SIU Carbondale has always had a fantastic history of a top-notch flight program that produces impressive pilots,” Tim Genc, director of pilot recruiting for Air Wisconsin, said. “We are happy to be able to work with such an institution.”

Under the agreement, the airline will also provide the university with operations manuals and other material to assist in training and include site visits to interact with students and participate in career fairs. 

Another opportunity for students 

José R. Ruiz, professor in the Department of Aviation Management and Flight, said the partnership is another opportunity for students to pursue careers as aviation flight officers. The agreement is a “win-win” for students and the aviation program, Ruiz said. 

Students receive “a benefit of almost guaranteed employment when they complete their education” and the program “played a role in cultivating the next generation of aviation professionals and extending the reach of SIU aviation,” Ruiz said. 

The agreement was signed earlier this summer and will remain in place for the duration of the mutually beneficial relationship between Air Wisconsin and the aviation program, Genc said. 

The airline has partnered with around 20 other aviation colleges and vocational flight schools. The agreement with SIU Carbondale is one of three in Illinois, Genc said. 

Market predicts ‘strong need’ for pilots in the future 

Aviation market projections from Boeing indicate a strong need for pilots over the next 20 years. 

Boeing Pilot and Technician Outlook forecasts that the aviation industry will need 635,000 commercial airline and 96,000 business pilots worldwide through 2037, including 206,000 in North America. 

The forecast notes “cadet programs that train aspiring pilots from zero flight hours to being an operationally ready first officer have increased in popularity as airlines look to provide career pathway programs and fill future pilot pipelines.” 

Agreements are key in helping shortage 

“Agreements such as this help to alleviate the national shortage of pilots for airlines and it helps students by allowing them to be recruited and hired by an airline before they even finish school. That way they have security about their job placement while they are students,” Michael Burgener, interim chair of the aviation management and flight program and aviation technologies chair, said. 

This is a great time for aviation students or those interested in pursuing a career in the field, Burgener said. 

The agreement with Air Wisconsin is the university’s fourth with a regional airline that provides students a pathway toward an aviation career. SIU Carbondale also has similar types of agreements with Republic Airlines, Trans States Airlines and Cape Air.  

“This also provides for better industry relations between SIU aviation and airlines that hire our students,” Burgener said.