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Travel is the Only Thing You Can Buy That Makes You Richer

Western Michigan University - College of Aviation

Travel is the Only Thing You Can Buy That Makes You Richer
James Cody Fox
Aviation Management and Operations Student-2014 

College is an experience that you only get to do once. It’s an investment in yourself and is precious time that should not be wasted. This is an opportunity to try new things, to ask questions, and push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Studying abroad is an adventure that will become a strong asset to your education, but you will also benefit in your personal life. Your life as you know it will change. How you think, how you feel, how you live... everything is different after you get a big dose of the world. Smells are different. Sights are different. Sounds are different. You come back a new person with a whole new view of the world. It may seem challenging to some, after you’re done, you’ll look back and thank yourself.

Throughout my college career, many of my peers shared with me that they would love to go abroad, but they would cling to excuses like, “It’s not part of my major,” or, “It’s too expensive.” On the contrary, many schools abroad actually cost less or equal to tuition in the US. There are also countless amounts of scholarships, grants, and financial aid available for students who wish to study abroad. Be flexible. Don’t let something like your curriculum stand between you and the experience of a lifetime.

My situation was very similar to the one above. I am an Aviation Management and Operations student, so the options to study abroad within my program were somewhat limited (or so I thought). The College of Aviation has a relationship with a school in Melbourne, Australia, but I wanted to study abroad in Europe. I wasn’t sure how to get there, but one thing I knew I wanted to do was learn another language. During my second semester of my freshman year, I decided to take a semester of French to see if I liked it. Some students feel limited by the courses they are required to take for their bachelor’s degree, but college is a time to explore different disciplines that you always found interesting but never knew much about. It is a time to take advantage of the little time you are given to learn new things and build your mind in hopes of becoming a well-rounded member of the global workforce.

During my first semester of French, I felt extremely challenged. Our class met four times per week, and every night we were required to go home and learn a bunch of new grammar and vocabulary before the following class. It was extremely tiring, but sticking with French is now one of my greatest accomplishments. At the end of the semester, I realized how rewarding learning a new language could be, and I decided to continue learning French.

Two semesters later, I met an international student in one of my aviation classes who had just moved to Kalamazoo from Africa. I told him I was learning French, and he invited me to come and meet some of his friends who were studying abroad from Paris, France. Although the French department at WMU has an agreement with a school in Besançon, France, these students became some of my closest friends and they encouraged me to study in Paris instead. I began investigating and soon after discovered that you could study abroad anywhere you wanted as long as you could get the courses approved prior to leaving. The process was simple, and before I knew it, I was enrolled in classes at the Catholic Institute of Paris for Spring 2013.

While in Paris, I realized that France plays a huge role in aviation development and manufacturing, as well as air travel. I was also able to meet people from all corners of the world who loved aviation as much as I did. I attended the Paris airshow, and I even took a tour of Airbus in Toulouse, France. Once I returned to the US, my desire to travel and see the world only grew. I ended up completing my French minor, and after graduation, I will be returning to Paris to continue my studies in a 12-month MBA program at the International School of Management.  Living abroad not only gives you a global network and a global perspective (which is extremely useful in the global transport industry), but it also teaches you self-confidence. There is something indescribably rewarding about being surrounded by a completely different environment, separated from your own culture. You learn to think in a completely different way, and it teaches you to work with many different types of people. All in all, just because you can find a million excuses not to study abroad, just remember that this may be a once in a lifetime chance to really explore the world and transform yourself into a global citizen. After all, “travel is truly the only thing you can buy that makes you richer.”

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"Charlie Victor Romeo" - A Must See for Every Aviation Professional

Western Michigan University - College of Aviation

Education is an art.  When done correctly, the educator is often able to synthesize understanding of a complex concept like a chef creates a confectionary delicacy.  However, very often it is disguised in assessments, pencil and paper tests, and data.  When this happens, the ability to approach a complex subject is lost.  The learner is reduced to a passive participant, digesting the material using only one sensory input. 

CVR Poster Nowhere else is this more evident than in the reports of airline emergencies.  More often than not, the transcripts of these events are recorded and documented.  The text of the crew, their actions, the response of the aircraft, all of these written in black and white to be analyzed and interpreted for years.  While the data is important, there is something lost: the voices of the individuals.  Much like certain educational subjects, these aviation events are anything but simple.  Instead, they are incredibly complex requiring a unique approach to their teaching.  Most of the times, these events are read.  However, through the readings, we lose the nuances and interactions between the crew; we fail to see the emotions, the conflict, grief, anger and despair.  The film Charlie Victor Romeo brings these incidents to life, allowing the viewer an intimate look into the situations that lead to these events; providing an incredible and unique educational opportunity.  

Using the art of theater, Charlie Victor Romeo projects the human element to these often tragic emergencies.  As a result, the film is a must see for everyone involved in aviation.  At Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation, students learn about many of the incidents portrayed in the film.  The students read and discuss the emergencies: what occurred, how the crew handled the situation, what they did well, what they could do better.  What the text lacks, Charlie Victor Romeo brings to life.  

As is true of any theatrical representation, the actors are able to showcase the hidden parts of the transcripts.  The dialogue of the actors is derived entirely from the “black box” transcripts of each of the six aviation emergencies highlighted in the movie.  However, missing from the transcripts is the perspiration, angst, and frustration the actors demonstrate through each of the events.  The ability to watch a person go through the stress of these situations adds another dimension to any collegiate or professional discussion.  

The use of this film as part of any academic discussion regarding these aviation emergencies should be highly considered.  Using the film in conjunction with the actual transcripts allows the educator to blend the art with the science.  Melding the faceless black and white text with the gamut of emotions projected by the actor, a student begins to see the events in a different light.  They are able to witness the dedication of the crew, their ability to fight through the situation, and sometimes their inability to perceive the situation unfolding in front of them.  While the transcripts lack the intensity of a John Grisham novel, the actors are able to infer the gut-wrenching emotion felt by the various crew members represented.  Ultimately, what the movie brings to light is the human element.  

To highlight the benefit of using the film Charlie Victor Romeo in order to educate future aviation professionals about past aviation incidents, all one must do is think about Shakespeare.  Many a college freshmen has sat through a class on Shakespeare: reading and discussing the Bard of Avon’s work.  Students would read, decipher and write about the various sonnets and plays, but they rarely connected to them since the text always lacked a certain “pizazz.”  The wonder of Shakespeare required a student to sit in an auditorium and watch “Macbeth” come to life.  The interpretation and presentation of the actors filled in the missing components.  All of which led to a deeper and more meaningful understanding of the original tale.  The production added nothing to Shakespeare’s words; however, the work of the actors provided that “little bit” which helped to generate a more a complete understanding of the source material.  The actors in Charlie Victor Romeo provide the same opportunity for those wishing to understand the nuances in the explored aviation emergencies.  

The ability to immerse a student into a subject is paramount to learning.  Many times, educators have found that to educate, one must also entertain.  Marshall McLuhan summed it up when he stated, “It’s misleading to suppose there’s any basic difference between education and entertainment.”  By combining the educational value of analyzing these aviation emergencies with the entertainment medium presented through the art of film, students are able to submerse themselves fully in the examination of these events.  Hopefully, through careful examination, the experiences of the past will help to prevent similar events in the future.    

Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation was proud to be the fourth professional screening of the film Charlie Victor Romeo.  Students, faculty, staff and the public were invited to the screenings that took place on April 9 and 10, 2014, at the Alamo Drafthouse in Kalamazoo, Mich.

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Aviation Outlook Day 2014 - April 4, 2014

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Late Additions:

  • L-3 Communications
  • Continental Motors Inc.
Endeavor Air CRJ

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Grounded in Aviation - Changing Majors by Changing Direction

Western Michigan University - College of Aviation

Growing up in Milwaukee, Wis, aviation mecca was only an hour and a half away. During my sophomore year of high school, I took my first “introductory flight” with EAA Young Eagles. I immediately knew I had been bitten by the aviation ‘bug.’ Since that day, I totally focused on the notion of being a commercial pilot. In my eyes, there wasn’t anything like it: having the luxury of always flying, strutting with those stripes on my shoulders, enjoying the four day layovers in exotic places and heading home to enjoy time off for another week before starting a trip again. As I thought about this day in and day out, I said to myself, “This really isn’t a job!”Gabe Langley by Airplane

Throughout high school, I began to set my eyes on Western Michigan University and their nationally recognized aviation program. I decided to enroll at WMU and double major in aviation flight science and aviation management and operations. Soon after I arrived, I began flying in the state of art Cirrus SR-20. The initial feeling of flying such a beautiful piece of equipment was truly amazing and very satisfying. I kept progressing through my training, but as I moved forward, I felt unfilled. Yes, I love planes and airports, but did I enjoy constantly flying and being at the controls?

Over the course of my first semester, my heart wasn’t fully devoted to being part of a professional pilot environment.  Many times I denied this feeling and ignored the fact telling myself, “This can’t be. I want to be an airline pilot! I’ll just pass the training and that’ll be it. It will all be different once I’m done with the training.” I felt like I was just going through the motions with my training, not truly investing myself. Although it was hard to think about and process, I was soon second guessing my career choice and questioning if I really wanted to pursue being a professional pilot. “Do I really want to do this?”

By the end of the semester, I came to a conclusion: drop flight training and the aviation flight science degree. Although I was no longer flying, aviation was still in my blood, and it needed to be addressed. I have always been interested in the management side of things, whether at an airport or an airline. Being part of a sales or management team of an airline/airport, as well as possibly being involved in the administrative operations at an airport, really excited me. Although I chose not to continue the path into a flight career, I knew one thing – be true to yourself and put your best foot forward.

With flying (or anything), you don’t know the reality of something until you try it out. Yes, I wanted to be an airline pilot. I saw the glamorous life of the career, but after sampling a taste and doing some more research, I realized that it was not my ‘cup of tea.’ As I thought about airport management and administration, and the many opportunities and challenges those careers brought, I soon realized it wouldn’t be a huge career change after all. Aviation business and management jobs typically offer extensive travel benefits, while many also enjoy the same benefits of an airline pilot. The only difference being, I won’t be controlling the aircraft in the cockpit.

Writing this today, I am focusing my studies towards the aviation management and operations major, while adding on a communication broadcasting minor. College is all about discovering and learning who you are. Part of that is also about making decisions. As a college student, you make short term and long term decisions every day. Part of the learning process is to explore these decisions and accept the changes they often bring.

Whether you grow up wanting to be a doctor, lawyer, or professional pilot, it is important to realize that things change. Yes, it will initially be hard to stray away from something you have focused on for a long time, but realize things happen for a reason. Be confident in your growth and decisions, don’t hesitate putting your all into what you want to do. I still love aviation and can never get enough. Losing myself for days in the miraculous events at EAA (and other airshows), spotting my favorite planes at many airports and everything in between, brings nothing but pure joy to my face.

Gabriel S. Langley
Western Michigan University
College of Aviation
Aviation Management and Operations 

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PSA Airlines Announces Regional Airline Growth

Western Michigan University - College of Aviation


DAYTON, OhioFollowing the closure of the merger between US Airways and American Airlines into American Airlines Group Inc., the new American Airlines today announced a Large Regional Jet order, 30 of which will be flown by Dayton-based PSA Airlines beginning next summer.  PSA is a  wholly owned subsidiary of American Airlines Group which is now the largest airline in the world.  Today’s announcement will allow PSA, whose headquarters, training and primary maintenance facility is located at the Dayton Airport, an  opportunity to continue to expand their employee base with the industry’s best professionals.
To prepare for the delivery of these aircraft, PSA will immediately begin hiring 400 additional pilots, 400 flight attendants, 100 maintenance-related personnel, and various other support positions to manage the rapid growth of the airline, resulting in an expansion from 1100 employees to upwards of 2000.
PSA’s growth announcement comes as a part of American Airlines Group Inc. announcement today that American Airlines Inc.:
 “…has firm orders for 30 Bombardier CRJ900 NextGen aircraft, with options for up to 40 more... and the firm order of CRJ900 NextGen aircraft will be operated on behalf of American by PSA Airlines, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of US Airways. American expects to begin taking delivery of the CRJ900s in the second quarter of 2014.
 'We are looking forward to welcoming these new planes into the fleet next year,' continued Hashimoto.  “PSA’s strong economics make them a perfect fit for the new aircraft.'”
For more information on the new American’s fleet plans, visit aa.com/newplanes.
“We are very excited about this growth opportunity which will bring new employment to the Dayton area which has supported us for the past twenty-five years,” said PSA President Keith D. Houk. 

With flight crew bases in Charlotte, Knoxville, and Dayton, along with maintenance in Charlotte, Dayton, and Akron, PSA’s growth will affect all of these areas as well as additional locations to be determined at a later date.
 See American Airlines Group Inc.’s Jet Purchase announcement in its entirety here.

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Learning to Fly in a Cirrus - An Aviation Student's Perspective

Western Michigan University - College of Aviation

The first time I stepped into the cockpit of the Cirrus SR 20, I was a bit intimidated.  Where I was accustomed to seeing the familiar six-pack instrument cluster, two flat-paneled screens occupied the space.  The area where my radio knobs should have been was now a full keyboard.  It felt as though I hopped into the cockpit of a spaceship, not an aircraft.  The past decade has been a remarkable time for aviation with the implementation of new aircraft technologies maximizing performance and utility, as well as ease of operation.

When people think of an aircraft cockpit, they envision two things.  The first is that of a typical airliner – one that you may have briefly seen while walking in or out of a commercial flight.  This version has what seems like thousands of switches, dials, gauges, levers, buttons, knobs, handles, needles, etc.  The vision leaves you amazed at the skill required to operate all of that machinery but wondering how pilots know what they are doing.  The other vision is usually the instrumentation of an old-style aircraft; with fewer instruments than a car, a stick, and a throttle.  

These two cockpits have dominated the aircraft environment since the beginning of aviation, but this has changed with the advent of technologically advanced aircraft.  Designers and engineers have started to place greater importance on the efficiency, ergonomics, and safety of each flight, beginning with the aircraft.  The Cirrus SR20 is a prime example of the effective implementation of these concepts, and showcases the superb performance generated from these new technologies. 

One of the most remarkable features of the Cirrus SR20 is the use of composite materials.  Until recently, aircraft structures were made two ways.  The first method involved constructing a metal or wood frame, then stretching glue-covered fabric over the body.  The second method involved creating an Cirrus Aircraftaluminum airframe by bending and twisting metal into the shape of the plane.  However, in the past decade, engineers discovered a better method.  By combining different materials of various strengths, they are able to make a new substance, called composites, which are much stronger and lighter than conventional materials.  These composite materials are advantageous to aircraft designers because they have a high strength to weight ratio, and are much easier to form into aerodynamically efficient shapes.  The benefit: aircraft are now lighter, faster, and overall more efficient.  The Cirrus SR20, similar to many recreational boats, is comprised primarily of fiberglass, and provides students a training aircraft with outstanding performance.

 Another cutting edge technology utilized in the Cirrus SR20 is an advanced avionics suite, the Avidyne Integra Release 9.  Instead of the typical analog instrument panel found in most small aircraft, the Cirrus SR2Avidyne R90 employs a glass panel, which in simpler terms is a computer monitor which displays all flight information.  The gauges have been replaced by two screens, the primary flight display, and the multi-function display.  These screens depict things like flight, navigation, systems information, traffic and terrain alerts using the Skywatch Collision Avoidance System, airport information, and flight plans.  In addition, the glass panel is also linked to a Flight Management System, similar to the system used by most airlines.  This system allows pilots to quickly input information for the flight using a full QWERTY keyboard.  Western Michigan University is one of the two collegiate aviation programs in the nation to offer this tool.  The combination of these new technologies increases pilot situational awareness and creates a user-friendly environment for the crew.

Personally, I was a bit skeptical of training in the Cirrus SR20 coming into Western Michigan University as a flight student. As most of my friends would agree, I generally am not the biggest fan of new technology.  I still have a flip-phone, my car has manual everything, I still use an atlas, and the idea of an aircraft being smarter than me was a bit daunting.  However, after several flights, I realized why everyone is raving about these new, advanced aircraft tools.  I was quite impressed at how easy the “computer” was to operate, and just how much more confident and aware I was during my training.  Also, since the beginning of my training, I have seen the inside of several airliner and corporate cockpits; each time I was surprised at how similar they are to the Avidyne R9 and Cirrus SR20.  This dual package of the Cirrus SR20 with the R9 provides students an opportunity to train on equipment that is very similar to the type used by most of the companies they will be working for in the future.

Andrew Marvin
Aviation Flight Science
Western Michigan University
College of Aviation

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How your Aviation Career is like going to Graduate School.

Western Michigan University - College of Aviation

The cost of flight training is expensive, especially at programs that have advanced technologies in their trainers and simulation equipment. And the starting salaries for pilots entering the aviation industry as first officers are criminally low. So what would make some wide-eyed youngster even enter this field? Their passion and their perspective, the idea that they could not imagine themselves doing anything other than flying, should be the answer, but often times the answer is for the money, or for the travel benefits. This industry will self-regulate those that are in it for the love and perspective it brings, and those that are in it for the money and travel because the money and travel don’t come early or easy. But even those that are in it, for what I would call the right reasons, can lose their perspective and find their passion diminished when the harsh reality of this industry hits.

They are coming into the repayment of large amounts of loans by getting a position where they will work more and get paid less than what they may have been doing while in college. For some, they may have made more money as flight instructors than they will their first year as a first officer of a regional carrier. Making it difficult to repay their loans and have enough left to live. Causing people to rethink their career choice, rethink if they have made a mistake in following their passion and rethink how they look at their career choice. Here, is where I would propose a perspective shift.

The regional carriers are not merely your first job in to the aviation industry the regional carriers are your graduate school degree.

Everyone knows that on the job training is some of the most valuable education that anyone can receive. How you handle yourself professionally and personally during everything from in-flight emergencies to your relationship with your company will mold you in to a better and better pilot as you move through the industry. This additional, and wildly valuable, education is like graduate school.

Where other students plan from the start that they will get a bachelor’s degree in business and then move on to graduate school to complete an MBA, flight students have a tendency to look at their bachelor’s degree as their terminal degree. And technically speaking they are right, most don’t get a masters or PhD, it’s not needed – instead they strive for things like ATP, and total hours flown to get advancement in their careers.

But if flight students looked at their regional job as graduate school, their perspective would be one of continuing education and getting minimally paid to do it, rather than the somewhat large let down felt by getting that first job and realizing you can’t get a new car with that first paycheck.

An article in 2012 in Forbes magazine1 looked at the question of whether grad school was still worth the money. It said that the average total tuition for a top 20 business school in 2011-2012 was $102,355 for an MBA. But a full cost analysis must also take in to consideration the lost wages of a student that goes back to school full time instead of being in the work force, which equates to approximately $44,442 per year. MBA programs (going full time) are typically two year programs so lost wages are $88,884. Added to the tuition for the degree it costs $191,239 for a student to get their MBA. On the flip side the article sites that people holding MBA’s typically make between $5 and $8 million over the course of a 40 year working career. Meaning they have spent about 4% of their lifetime wages on the investment of educating themselves.

Using this same logic for pilots, tuition and fees at WMU are $105,500 the lifetime earning potential of a pilot is approximately $4.5 million (assuming movement every 7 years or so from FO to Capt, and on to the major airlines). Meaning they will have spent about 2% of their lifetime wages on the investment of educating themselves.

In this context, comparing the first airline job to graduate school isn’t that difficult, and a better return on investment. If students would have the mindset that their bachelor’s degree is not their terminal degree, and look at that first airline job as the investment in the education of themselves at a graduate level, they may be able to maintain their passion for flying and perspective on the industry. 


O’Connor, S. (2012). Grad school: Still worth the money? Forbes. Retrieved at: www.forbes.com/sites/shawnoconnor/2012/04/05/grad-school-still-worth-the-money/print/

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Jet Equivalency Training (JET) at Western Michigan University

Western Michigan University - College of Aviation

 WMU is committed to providing its students with an education that is second to none and will prepare them for a successful career in aviation.  One of its most effective courses for ensuring a successful transition is the Jet Equivalency Training (JET) course. The following attest to the course’s success in readying WMU flight students for the rigors of training at a regional airline.


“To this day, I feel that the JET course was an excellent opportunity to get some experience in a multi-crew environment and prepared me well for the airlines.  Having covered the systems in computer based training I was a step ahead of the game when it came to CRJ ground school (more of an in-depth review than brand new information).  While it's been almost 2 years since I went through the course, I still pull on some of the knowledge you gave me and I hope others can have the same experience.  I'd be more than happy to recommend anyone to SkyWest that's been through the JET course.  They love the JET course and are pleased with the results!”  Michael Grime, Skywest FO and JET course alumni


“Well, I survived my first year on the line and still loving it.  I have to say, it's a lot of fun.  I have flown a lot of approaching down to mins, landed on snow covered runways in snowstorms, and getting good at 30+ knot crosswind landings!  It's been a brutal winter!!  No doubt that this is much easier after going through the JET course.” Tony Yaskoweak, American Eagle FO and JET course alumni


“I… became a First Officer in the Embraer 135/140/145 for American Eagle based out of Chicago.  During the interview in December, Eagle was glad to hear I had the JET course and said "the JET course at WMU has proved successful with all of the WMU students and instructors we pick up."  I had 740 hours and 56 multi, but they didn't care, they just want the WMU guys with the JET course.  I believe there are now 8 or 9 WMU people at eagle that have done the JET course in the past few months.  Eagle can't get enough of WMU people.  Continue on with your hard work and airlines will continue to pick up JET graduates.”  Chris Murray, American Eagle FO and JET course alumni


What specifically is the JET course?  The JET course is a 6 credit elective (AVS 4300) that readies students for new hire training with a regional airline.  The course consists of the following three phases:

  • Computer Based Training (CBT) – 2 weeks of self-study prior to starting classes.  Instruction consists of 25 modules of web based CRJ-200 systems training. 
  • Academics – 5 days of instruction in the classroom.  Topics include CRJ-200 flight crew normal, abnormal, and emergency procedures, and a review of aircraft systems.
  • Simulation – 10 days of flight instruction in a CRJ-200 flight training device (FTD).  Each day consists of a 1½ hour pre brief, 4 hours of FTD instruction, and a 1 hour post brief.  The time in the FTD is equally divided between pilot flying and pilot not flying duties.  Scenarios begin with basic handling and are performed in a two-crew environment.  As proficiency grows, students learn to contend with abnormal and emergency situations.  After students experience operations in a variety of conditions, they explore flight crew use of automation and realistic airline operations.  The phase culminates with an airline style checkride.


To simulate the “fire hose” nature of regional airline training, the JET course is usually conducted Monday through Friday until all lessons are complete.  Therefore, the course can be completed in as little as 3 weeks.  Due to student schedules and academic commitments, the course can be scheduled on a less hectic basis, but still should be conducted for at least three days a week to maintain its intensity.


WMU has offered airline oriented instruction since 2000 and has worked with numerous airlines to get the instruction within the JET course just right.  The list of airlines that have worked with WMU in the past includes:

  • Air Wisconsin Airlines.
  • American Eagle Airlines.
  • Atlantic Southeast Airlines.
  • British Airways.
  • Comair Airlines.
  • Delta Air Lines.
  • Emirates Airlines.
  • ExpressJet Airlines.
  • Messaba Airlines.
  • Pinnacle Airlines.


Who can take the JET course?  WMU flight program students who meet the following prerequisites can take the JET course:

  • AVS 3560: Professional Flight IV Lab.
  • AVS 4110: Airline Flight Operations.
  • AVS 4120: Line Oriented Flight Crew Simulation.

The following are also required:

  • Commercial Pilot license with Instrument and Multi-Engine ratings.
  • A Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) license is not necessarily required.


Why should students take the JET course?  The best reason is because it works.  In the past, six regional airlines agreed to lower their job interview flight hour requirements for JET course graduates.  The upcoming enactment of aviation legislation will mandate specific flight hour minimums for first officers which will nullify these agreements.  However, the regionals still express their support for the course.  For example, ExpressJet Airline, the world's largest regional airline, worked with WMU to establish a Pilot Pathway Program.  If students pass a rigorous screening process and get accepted into this program, they will be guaranteed jobs as first officers with ExpressJet and, later on, interviews with Delta Air Lines. Part of the screening process for the program is the JET course.


Who teaches the JET course?  The primary instructor for the JET course is Dennis McFall.  He has over 34 years of aviation experience which includes working in a training center transitioning ab initio flight students to jet transport aircraft.  Dennis has been with WMU since 2000 and was instrumental in establishing the university’s airline transition training.




(269) 964-5680



Where can one find more information about the JET course?  For more information, one can contact Dennis McFall.  He would be happy to provide in-depth information and answer any questions.  Information can also be obtained at:







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Flight Physicals and Aviation Medical Examiners (AME)

Western Michigan University - College of Aviation

Flight Physicals and Aviation Medical Examiners (AME)


How healthy are you?  This is a question we often ask ourselves; one that requires a hard, reflective look at life styles, personal habits, and medical issues.  In the world of aviation, the overall health of a pilot is a major concern, reinforcing aviation's highest priority: safety.  All pilots are required to obtain some type of medical approval.  For those entering into the professional ranks of the piloting world, a class 1 medical is required.  This type of medical exam is the strictest type of medical approval.

Prior to beginning a professional aviation training program, consulting with an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) is highly recommended.  At Western Michigan University, which is a FAR Part 141 training institution, we encourage all students in our flight school to obtain their class 1 medical to ensure they are able to pass the examination required to be a professional pilot.

You aren’t sure where an AME is located or how to find one?  Easy!  Check out the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) AME locator and pinpoint the nearest AME.  Western Michigan University is proud to employ an AME, who is available to all flight students.  Dr. Gregory Pinnell, Adjunct Professor at WMU's College of Aviation has an examination room here on campus, making medical exams easy and convenient for WMU students.

There are many exceptional resources available when researching flight physicals conducted by an AME.

Find additional information about a career as a pilot in The Essential Pilot Career Guide


From the Flight Surgeon:

July 2013

From the Flight Surgeon

AirVenture at Oshkosh is coming soon!   Many of us will be taking our 
aircraft over Lake Michigan flying at high altitudes for safety.   We 
all know the FAA rules for oxygen usage.   Flight crew must use oxygen 
above 12,500 feet when the time at altitude is 30 minutes or longer. At 
14,000 feet or above all aboard must use supplemental oxygen.  The 
reality is that hypoxic symptoms can start as low as 5000 feet at night 
and 9000 feet during the day!   If your trip takes you to high altitude 
consider renting or purchasing a portable oxygen system to increase your 
safety and make the trip more enjoyable!

We have a new High Altitude Lab at Western Michigan College of Aviation 
which can simulate hypoxia symptoms to 30,000 feet.  It is a great way 
to increase your altitude awareness and learn your personal hypoxia 
signs and symptoms.  Contact us for more details.

Gregory Pinnell, MD
Senior AME/ Senior Flight Surgeon USAFR

January 2013

"Is there anyone out there who has managed to miss the nasty respiratory bug that is going around?  This time of year we frequently need to “self-treat” symptoms with over the counter (OTC) medications due to colds, flu or even the remains of seasonal allergies.   Most of us know that many of these medications can cause drowsiness.  The most common “relief” medication is Benadryl which is an antihistamine. It is often forgotten that the effects of this drug can last 4 hours and can take over 8 hours to get half of it out of your system.  Pseudoephedrine is allowed by the FAA as a decongestant but it is always best to wait till all the symptoms are gone and you have been off the OTC’s for at least 24 hours before flying.  Fly safe and keep the Kleenex nearby!"

February 2013

Big changes are coming in FAA Aeromedical Certification.  The biggest will be a new program called Certificates an AME Can Issue or “CACI”.  This will involve about 18 different medical diagnoses which previously were special issuance conditions generally requiring yearly documentation to go to the FAA.  Now your AME will ask you for supporting medical documentation about your condition and, if you meet the criteria and are otherwise qualified, they can issue a normal duration medical certificate.  The AME does not even need to forward the medical documentation to the FAA.  The specific diagnosis have not been announced but they will likely show up in March 2013.  This program will reduce waiting time for medical certification and free up FAA time for more complicated cases.  Feel free to call or write if questions.  Fly Safe!

Gregory Pinnell, MD

Western Michigan University, College of Aviation

Senior AME, Senior Flight Surgeon USAFR



517-580-0970 Fax

Gregory Pinnell - About

Adjunct Professor - Western Michigan University, College of Aviation

Dr. Gregory Pinnell, WMU      Dr. Gregory Pinnell is a board certified family practitioner/Senior AME licensed in Michigan. He serves as a Senior Flight Surgeon for the 434th Air Refueling Wing, Grissom Air Reserve Base. Dr. Pinnell works with the Department of Defense Human Space Flight Support and has worked multiple Space Shuttle missions. He is a veteran of Operation Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom having been deployed to the Persian Gulf in 2002 and 2004. He was also deployed in support of the Balkan’s Operation Joint Forge. Dr. Pinnell serves as an adjunct professor for Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation.

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How to help your Career Take-Off: The Power of Internships

Western Michigan University - College of Aviation


How to help your Career Take-Off: The Power of Internships


Internships come in many sizes, shapes and disciplines, but most everyone agrees that an internship will do wonders when applying for first career jobs.  Internships offer a practical way to apply skills learned at educational institutions in a workplace setting.  Additionally, they supply students with an understanding of how the knowledge gained in an academic setting will merge with a modern work environment.

At Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation, students are encouraged to take part in numerous networking opportunities throughout their tenure at the University.  The flagship event is Aviation Outlook Day, taking place this year on April 5, 2013.  Since its re-launch in 2010, the program has consistently grown both with the numbers of companies participating and students attending.  All students are encouraged to attend and learn about career opportunities and information from the aviation company representatives who ultimately hire WMU College of Aviation graduates.  Many of the companies attending Aviation Outlook Day offer internships for students.  These internships are available to all students and all degree programs at the College of Aviation.

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Don’t take it from me; data from WMU’s Career Services support the power of internships.  Of those students reporting full time employment after graduation, 60% had an internship prior to graduation in 2012.  If you are a student reading these numbers, you now realize the necessity of pursuing an internship opportunity while an undergrad.  Not only will this provide you valuable real-world experience, the opportunity will also heighten your chances obtaining full time employment post-graduation.  High internship completion numbers exist for students studying Aviation Science and Administration, also known in many cases as Aviation Management and Operations and Aviation Maintenance Technology.  An impressive 33% of Aviation Science and Administration graduates who reported full-time post-graduation employment had an internship while attending WMU.  Even better, 55% of Aviation Maintenance Technology graduates who reported full-time employment participated in an internship while studying at Western Michigan University.

Many students who study Aviation Flight Science (Professional Pilot Training) often fail to realize they too should participate in internships.  These experiences enhance networking opportunities and raise job prospects for students upon completing their education.  Aspiring pilots need a good understanding of the business that surrounds the aircraft as well as how to operate it.  Many aviation internships do a great job at demonstrating the inner workings of an airline, corporate operation or other aircraft operations.  Dave Powell, Dean of the College of Aviation encourages students in the Aviation Flight Science curriculum to focus on being both an exceptional pilot and an individual who understands the business behind the aircraft.  Knowing the business aspect of aviation enhances the marketability of post-graduates seeking employment, and may set pilots apart from their peers.  Internships do a remarkable job of putting the finishing touches on this part of a student’s education.

After reviewing data, internships are a no-brainer.  Students interested in pursuing exceptional internship opportunities are encouraged to subscribe to the College of Aviation internship blog.  Subscribers will receive e-mails sent on a weekly to bi-weekly basis.  These notifications will provide students multiple opportunities to learn about internship opportunities and indicate the deadlines and time frames that are critical for obtaining an internship.  Students are also provided a forum to ask questions and receive advice about the opportunities.

As mentioned earlier, internship opportunities abound at many companies and organizations.  One company in particular, offers a great internship program which highlights all aspects of corporate aviation.  Northern Jet Management offers multiple length, year-round internships that build additional skills sought by companies hiring aviation graduates.  As a company specializing in corporate aviation, Northern Jet Management offers internship opportunities highlighting many aspects of the industry: aviation business, maintenance, operations, and even flight.  Students in the Aviation Science and Administration (Aviation Management and Operations) curriculum interested in corporate jet operations, fixed based operator management, or aircraft sales would be wise to apply for this particular internship.

Learn more about careers in Aviation Management and Operations by clicking the the button below. 

Northern Jet Management is a corporate aviation management company that specializes in turnkey aircraft and flight department management.  Northern Air, Inc. is a Fixed Base Operation that provides full line and concierge services as well as aircraft maintenance.  To learn more about this great company, please click here.

Northern Jet Management

Northern Jet Management and Northern Air, Inc. partner with Western Michigan University for aviation internships and career opportunities in West Michigan.  Our internship opportunity allows the student to experience maintenance, flight operations, customer service, and participate in job shadows with aviation management and senior leaders.  Western Michigan University students studying in the Aviation Science and Administration, Flight Science and Aviation Maintenance Technology programs gain a knowledge base that prepares them for aviation opportunities including the company internship program with Northern Jet Management and Northern Air, Inc.  Previous experience is vital when students are looking for careers after graduation.  Since students can build an internship around their area of interest at Northern Jet Management, the opportunity offers them a chance to apply their knowledge learned at WMU to the aviation workplace.

If students or alumni are interested in Northern Jet Management or Northern Air, Inc. for career opportunities, please email your resume to HumanResources@northernair.net or visit their websites at www.northernjet.net orwww.northernair.net.  Students interested in the semester based internship program can also apply to Tami Barnes at HumanResources@northernair.net

Not a Western Michigan University aviation student? Find out how you can join an in demand career that is exciting and valuable.


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