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#WMUAviation

 
Western Michigan University - College of Aviation

#WMUAviation
Josh Blain
Aviation Flight Science

Through my job as an Aviation Ambassador for Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation, I’ve gotten to do some pretty cool things: show off the College of Aviation to the assistant Chief Pilot of JetBlue, fly into many different aviation events, and most importantly meet hundreds of prospective Broncos and find out my job made an impact on them choosing WMU. However, there’s another job I do that just as important, but without all the outward attention.

For the last several years I’ve been the administrator for our Facebook and Twitter pages (and newly created Instagram profile), and loved every second of it. When I started as an Aviation Ambassador our social media footprint was small to say the least. At that time we still had a personal profile, one where a prospective student had to request to connect with us. We also had a separate fan page which mainly posted automated content from our blog with limited engagement. In addition, our twitter profile was in its infancy after another aviation ambassador created the profile. Our department was rather lost when it came to social media at that time, we had no sole author which really hampered our potential due to the multiple “voices” our ambassadors’ posted with.

When I first started my job I really had no formal social media training outside of using Facebook in my personal life for the previous five years. However, I was up for the challenge and was willing to learn quickly. I soon learned that I was the only student directly running a social media account at Western Michigan University and a collegiate aviation program, something that I think I can credit the success of our accounts. WMU Aviation on Facebook has become to have the largest audience amongst the various colleges pages at WMU, all while being the smallest in terms of students. Our engagement on Facebook and twitter consistently beats other collegiate aviation programs. I think a student who is actively engaged in the program brings a different voice and ideas, ones that other prospective and current students can relate to. I find some of the most rewarding parts of my job comes from social media, the joy I see in a tweet when I follow a prospective student cannot be matched. I also pride myself on addressing a majority of tweets and posts in a very timely matter, I’ve been known to tweet well past traditional business hours. In fact, one time a prospective student tweeted the College of Aviation, Embry Riddle, and the University of North Dakota. I jumped at the occasion and responded first, and this left a lasting impact on the student.

 I recently launched the newest social media account, an Instagram profile. Instagram is the new and up incoming social media platforms among prospective students, its primary focus is to post and share pictures. Our students are constantly taking and posting awesome pictures from their flights, labs, class, or just around the campus. This makes my job very easy since a majority of my posts are regrams or shares of these posts. This creates a large visual identity for prospective students to see and pride within our students. Within a week, the Instagram profile already received over 100 followers, and our posts were favorited over 300 times, becoming one of the most active collegiate aviation programs on Instagram. This job has really opened my eyes to a career as a social media administrator for an aviation company, something that I am considering as a complement to the traditional piloting career I intended to achieve. Now all I need to do is find a job that entails flying and tweeting! Having run the social media for the last few years, I realize my time at WMU will be coming to an end and thus time to hand off the task of posting to another diligent #AvGeek, I just hope they can share the drive, dedication, and sometimes the witty or puny sense of humor that I have.

Don’t be afraid to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, I look forward to seeing you there.

#WMUAviation #GoWest.

Josh blog

Western Michigan University - College of Aviation
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From Abu Dhabi to the World: Why I Chose WMU's College of Aviation

 
Western Michigan University - College of Aviation

From Abu Dhabi to the World: Why I Chose WMU’s College of Aviation
Diogene De Souza
Aviation Management & Operations 

I harbored a passion for aviation from a very young age, and the thrill of travelling would overtake me days before we even set off, rendering me excitable and leaving my mother with the task of calming me down and getting me to fall sleep. Fortunately, the sleepless pre-travel nights are a thing of the past, but my passion for aviation has not diminished one bit. I still cannot resist watching the activity on the tarmac and thinking of how I am making my dreams come true by immersing myself in the amazing world of aviation.

Travelling through an airport was an experience I enjoyed and always wished I could do more often, but never really thought of turning into a career. As the title to this article might suggest, I am an international student. I am Portuguese, but was born in a former Portuguese Colony, Goa, on the west cost of India. When I was four, my family moved to Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates and lived there until I moved to Kalamazoo to attend Western Michigan University in August 2013. The advantage of having family living in other countries was that I got to travel at least once a year, and this unconsciously helped fuel my passion for aviation.

When I got into high school and began applying to universities, I considered majoring in computer science or aerospace engineering until I went to a college fair and met a representative from International Admissions and Services at Western Michigan University. This was when I learned WMU had an aviation program, and specifically, an air traffic control program – something that I thought I would like to pursue. This was also the point at which I realized that aviation was something I had a passion for, albeit a passion I had ignored for quite a while.

 I soon learned that the AT-CTI program that WMU offered was a precursor to the Air Traffic Training Program in Oklahoma City, and that one needed to be a U.S. citizen to pursue this further training. However, I was still determined to study aviation. I applied to Western, and was accepted into the Aviation Management and Operations Program.

I was also accepted to the University of North Dakota’s Aviation Program, and that’s where it got difficult because I had to choose between two great aviation programs, both with a lot to offer. Making a decision on where to go to University was not one that I took lightly. In fact, it took me nearly 2 months to come to my final decision – a nerve-wracking experience, but a rewarding one nonetheless. My final decision was based on multiple factors, one of which was, oddly enough, the severity of winter where the university was located. The one thing, however, that had me sold on Western as a university was the professionalism and helpfulness of their staff.

 I also had a chance to look at the College of Aviation’s curriculum guides and was impressed with the classes offered, particularly those on Airport Operations, and the Aviation Administration Senior Project. For an aviation geek like me, the very idea of learning the ins and outs of an airport operation and getting to plan my own airline and run it through a simulation was a dream come true. I informed Western of my intent to attend, applied for and received my visa, and jetted off on my first trip to the United States.

Once I began classes at Western, I realized how different the worlds of General Aviation and Commercial Aviation were. The College of Aviation, a general aviation operation, is amazing because of its relatively small size. We are the smallest college at WMU, but I think we are the most close-knit because you know nearly everyone by face, if not by name. This environment fosters a lot a friendships and professional relationships that you would not necessarily be able to build in a larger environment.

Confucius’ famous saying still rings true today: ‘Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life’. To put it simply, coming to Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation was the best decision of my life. Here, I found dedicated faculty and staff, great facilities, and an amazing fleet of airplanes, all of which come together into an encouraging and passionate community of people willing to share their knowledge and help me further my goals. I chose to ‘Grab the Reins’, and I’m loving every second of it. 

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Why (I Think) You Should be Staying for the Summer Semesters if You are Flight Training at Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation

 
Western Michigan University - College of Aviation

Why (I Think) You Should be Staying for the Summer Semesters if You are Flight Training at Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation

By: Jason Blair
NAFI Master Flight Instructor and FAA Designated Pilot Examiner

 

Flying in the summer months at Battle Creek, Michigan is, on average, almost 40% more likely to result in experiencing weather conditions that allow flight training to be successfully completed.

Flying when the weather is better allows more flight training to be completed. This is a simple statement, but many don’t really look into the details of what it means. While I spent some time working on an article comparing weather at sites across the country in relation to flyable weather conditions for flight training, I drilled down the numbers in much greater detail for Battle Creek because it is home, it is information that directly affects students and instructors I personally know, and the data that I found was strongly trended.

MonthlyTrendMETARKBTL

Click on the image to see a bigger detailed view of this chart.

This chart shows the trends of ups and downs that are experienced when broken down by average METAR reports at Battle Creek, Michigan between 2010 and 2015. The trends are pretty obvious.

Winter months in Battle Creek have significantly worse weather than summer months. While this is something we all knew anecdotally, now we have the math to prove it.

Many WMU students spend Winter and Spring semesters training, then take off the Summer semester. If training efficiency is important, this is probably most important semester of a school year that should be focused on to complete the most training in the shortest periods of time with the least amount of weather delays.

If you don’t think it is important, think about it in a broader career perspective. Sure, students have 4 years to complete their training if they plan on completing a degree, but getting through flight training early in those 4 years can have a significant positive effect on an overall flying aviation career. A student that gets through their private, instrument, commercial (single- and multi-engine) and their CFI early has an opportunity to instruct as they finish their last year or two of coursework. This transition is important if a pilot is focused on getting enough flight time to meet ATP minimums (even restricted ATP requirements).

Follow me through this. A pilot that gets their training done by, for example, the end of their Junior year has an opportunity to accumulate instructional flight hours during their Senior year, helping them get valuable flight time (and let’s be honest, getting paid to do it is not a bad thing either) that will be applicable to hiring minimums later. Any delay in getting these hours pushes a hiring date with an airline (or any other commercial pilot job that requires an ATP) further into the future. Every month, year, or decade of delay means lower career earnings potential.

If the monthly trend graph above didn’t help you see it, how about this one that shows the data on an averaged monthly basis for these years:

MonthlyAveragesMETARKBTL

Again, this shows the high points of good weather as during summer months.

If I were looking to training in Battle Creek, or I had a son or daughter doing so, I would look to try to find a way to make sure my education at WMU became a year round effort, not just Winter and Spring semesters when the weather is sure to force delays in training. My money would be on making sure I was doing some flight training through the Summer semesters.

PercentagesMonthlyMETARKBTL

It’s a bit dorky to drill down this math, but it is highly illustrative of our local weather conditions and how they can affect out training environment.

Want to know more about the math behind it? Well here it is (in case you want more detail). To get this data, I pulled every METAR report from January 1, 2010 through December 31, 2014 and compared them. The percentages given in this data are equated to “Ok for Pattern” and “Ok for Good VFR” labels. “Ok for Pattern” means a METAR reported ceilings better than 2000′ AGL, visibility better than 3 miles, and less than 15 knots winds. “Ok for Good VFR” means a METAR reported ceilings better than 3000′ AGL, visibility better than 5 miles, and less than 15 knots winds. These two broad characterizations are basic considerations of whether a pilot trying to fly (or train) could either fly traffic pattern or go out to a practice area to do most training maneuvers prescribed in practical test standards. I didn’t bother trying to analyze if instrument training could be completed because so much of the time in the winter when there are clouds, icing is present, and we can’t fly anyway.

The data reports in percentages indicate the percentage of reports in each month or the averaged month that meet the established criterion.

PercentagesAverageMETARKBTL

When considering these data points on a monthly trend or as an average for each month over the years, the trends follow a pattern that matches our anecdotal experience.

The key is now that we have the data, trying to use it to change how we view the pursuit of training in our environment.

I doubt that WMU’s College of Aviation will discourage students from staying around for summer weather training. In fact, I would bet it would be welcomed.

To view more of Jason Blair's blogs, please visit http://www.jasonblair.net/.

Western Michigan University - College of Aviation
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Next Generation of Aviation Professionals

 
Western Michigan University - College of Aviation

Next Generation of Aviation Professional
Preston Mayes
Aviation Flight Science

Having the opportunity to represent Western Michigan University and the College of Aviation internationally was something I had the privilege of experiencing recently.  I, along with three other students at the College of Aviation, attended the Next Generation of Aviation Professionals (NGAP) conference at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) headquarters located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

The trip started early in the afternoon on a Wednesday in December right before final exam week was to start. We packed up the car, a Ford Focus, and were prepared to take the 10-hour journey into Canada for the conference. The trip started with a few hiccups: running out of gas just before crossing the bridge into Canada, being heavily questioned while crossing the Canadian border, and to top it all off, a heavy snowstorm that made the drive rather treacherous and leaving us to question whether or not we were going to make it.  The quick 10-hour drive developed into a 14-hour journey that put us in Montreal around 4:00am instead of the projected midnight time slot we were expecting.

The conference was set to begin the following morning at 8:00am, so we each got about 3 hours of sleep that first night. The morning was tough at first, getting our shirts ironed, ties tied, and notepads ready, but what the day had in store for us, we would have never imagined.  For those who have never attended a conference before, they are set up in a way that allows for a good amount of networking; coffee breaks every hour or two, lunch periods, and even more coffee breaks that promote communication with others in attendance. The great thing about this conference that I was looking forward to, more than others I had attended in the past, is that it was specifically targeted toward students and young professionals both in the aviation industry as well as those who will be entering the industry in the future. 

Day one began with coffee and a continental breakfast compliments of a sponsor of the event.  Following that, the opening remarks and the first presentation was underway.  The NGAP conference had about 400 in attendance this year, of which about half were students, or N-GAPs, as we affectionately began calling ourselves.  The first presentation was something I will never forget for the rest of my life.  I was anticipating a slideshow along with some industry economics, and information about new technologies perhaps, but what I was witnessing was nothing close to that. The first guest speaker for the event is the current director of the Montreal Science Center; she is a former Canadian Astronaut, and has spent many hours in orbit on the International Space Station. 

Witnessing what she had to share was one of the most inspiring moments I’ve ever experienced.  One distinct quote of hers that I think will stick with me for a long time followed her telling us about her time on the International Space Station, she said, “Looking down at the little blue marble in all of the blackness, and realizing that’s the only place I have hope to return to...” This quote was also relating to how far the aviation industry has come, and the potential the future has and the impact the NGAPs have on the industry.  The session ended with a few questions from members of the audience calling on her life experience with relation to getting children interested in aviation. Her words brought silence to the room, and following the event, I was lucky enough to get a photo with her and the other students who I was attending the event with from WMU. Following that session, we broke into a coffee break and the day resumed with presentations and networking. The day ended with a speed-networking event, which left NGAPs the opportunity to speak with industry professionals including air traffic controllers, pilots, maintenance technicians, and airport administrators. 

The following two days were more focused on group sessions, which provided more of an open discussion between the ones presenting, and the members in the audience.  This was unique because it provided interaction with not only the NGAPs but also the other industry professionals in attendance who have valuable information to share and add to the session.  One of the great parts about traveling to conferences like this at ICAO and other places throughout the world is also being immersed in another culture and speaking to people who are also interested in aviation. 

The event was full of relevant information and interesting points of view from many industry professionals from all over the world. I would highly recommend attending events like this if your schedule allows, they are very informative and beneficial for any student at the College of Aviation or NGAP looking to enter the aviation industry.

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Check Ride Time

 
Western Michigan University - College of Aviation

Check Ride Time
Aaron Mohnke
Aviation Flight Science

The biggest part of your pilot training will always be using the knowledge you have learned to pass the practical test or check ride. You must complete a check ride for each rating that you receive. Each checkride consists of a ground/oral discussion and a flight portion. No matter what anyone tells you, you will be nervous. There is just no getting around it. The nerves are good; it means you are taking the test seriously. To help cope with your nerves, I want to give you some tips that seem to help relax me a bit before each check ride I take. Along with the tips I’ll share a few of my own stories and experiences with you.


The first tip is to get some good sleep. You will want to be up all night looking over the last minute parts of planning and questions but don't sweat it. Getting a good nights sleep is far more important so you can actually focus during the test. Before my first check ride, I stayed up until three in the morning trying to review last minute things. It definitely was not worth it in the end. I was very tired in the morning and it was harder to focus during the test. Eat breakfast before is tip number two. Going into the ride on an empty stomach will only make you feel worse. You might even get sick on the flight, which would not be good. When I did upset recovery and spin training, I was told to eat a banana before each flight. Bananas help prevent upset stomachs. So this would be a good thing to eat before a checkride just in case. Tip number 3 would be to create conversation with the examiner. They are just people too and are not out to get you. Getting to know the examiner will make them more comfortable around you. If they are more comfortable, it won’t seem like they are trying to just grill you with questions. They want to see you pass just as bad as you want to pass. The most recent checkride that I took was probably the easiest one I have had so far. It wasn’t easy because the information and maneuvers were easy; it was because I felt very comfortable with the examiner. It felt just like casual conversation during the oral exam and the flight felt as if I was flying around a friend. Only at the end of the test did I actually realize I was providing and demonstrating all my knowledge to him. And lastly, don't open doors that don't need to be opened. The examiner won't try to trick you so go with the answer that pops up first. The more you beat around answers, the bigger hole you can dig yourself into and will lead the examiner into asking tougher questions.  I did this once a while ago. Instead of giving just the one sentence answer, I tried to sound smarter by making it wordy. By trying to sound smarter, I ended up rambling and saying something incorrect.  The examiner caught it and then he dug deeper into that particular subject. Believe me, this is not something that you want to happen.

These are just a few things that I like to do and think about when I'm taking my check rides. Hopefully you can use these tips for your next practical test and can learn from some of my experiences and apply them to your test. After it is over, you will always think that it wasn't that bad. It won’t be that bad because you will have all the knowledge for it. And remember, your flight instructor won't send you on the checkride unless they know that you can pass it. So if you are about to take one, you are ready!

 

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Sky Broncos: On the Road to Nationals

 
Western Michigan University - College of Aviation

Sky Broncos: On the Road to Nationals
Patrick Allen
Aviation Flight Science and Aviation Management and Operations

Following our win at regionals in the fall, the Sky Broncos Precision Flight Team is getting started for the push to nationals. Starting at the end of January, the team will be at the airport to hone their skills and prepare as much as possible for our next competition.

Why I Joined the Team

Coming to Western Michigan University I knew I wanted to get involved in the College of Aviation as much as possible. The Sky Broncos appealed to me for a lot of reasons. For one, I knew they offered free flight time. With how expensive it is to gain all the hours required to become a pilot, I knew this would help me tremendously. Secondly, I wanted my chance to compete against the highest level of collegiate aviators. The students who put their time and effort into the team want to be the best in the industry and I wanted to be a part of that. Thirdly, I knew by getting involved with the team I would be able to make a lot of connections with people throughout the aviation community. Competitors from any school, and anyone who has been involved in NIFA, are always willing to help someone else they know has put so much time into their passion.

I knew the transition to college would be tough and that the time commitment on the team was huge. A little scared, I went to the tryouts and found my place on the team. I was put into S.C.A.N. and was ready to start practicing for regionals. S.C.A.N. focuses on private pilot knowledge and cross country planning. Being on the team really helped me work on my time management skills which has helped throughout my college career so far. The knowledge I learned in S.C.A.N. has really given me the leg up in my classes because we know the information so well. The choice to join the team has been nothing but a positive one and I would highly recommend joining the team here at Western Michigan University.

The Events

Through NIFA, the National Intercollegiate Flying Association, competitors will do a multitude of events. The three core ground events are aircraft recognition, S.C.A.N., and E6B computer accuracy. Those involved in aircraft recognition can name any plane sitting on the ramp or in the air. S.C.A.N., or simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation, members are experts with the FAR/AIM and planning VFR cross country flights. E6B members can calculate just about everything with their manual flight computers from long division to wind correction angles. Other events include spot landings, ground trainer, and navigation events. During spot landings, competitors are put to the test trying to land as accurately as they can and get as close to the mark on the runway as possible. The judges also take into account your traffic pattern and will penalize for pattern mistakes. Ground trainer is an event in the flight simulators requiring a set pattern to be flown as precise as possible. Navigation requires time, fuel, and heading information to be exact as possible. Another event is preflight inspection. Mechanics will go through and purposely bug an airplane. Each competitor has 15 minutes to callout as many hazards as possible. All of the events will help improve your skill and knowledge as a pilot.

Regionals

At regionals in the fall, the team had a very strong showing. Coming back to school in the fall is always hard to get in the mindset of academics and practice, but through hard work and dedication, the team was diligently working. The members of the team gave up their weekends to sharpen their skills and bond together. When regionals rolled around, all of our hard work paid off. Taking first in the flight events and second in the ground events, it was a close competition but WMU came out victorious. The five competitors in aircraft recognition all placed and gained big points for the team.  There was not a single event that WMU did not have at least one competitor in the top 5.

Moving Forward

Moving into the spring season, the team knows they will have to step up their game. Nationals will have closer to 30 teams, so the stakes are much higher. Last year, the team took 4th place overall and we are looking forward to improving our placing in 2015. I have high hopes for the team this year and we have a lot of potential moving forward.

If you are interested in finding out more about the team or joining, contact rso-skybroncos@wmich.edu. You can also follow the team on Facebook at WMU Skybroncos or on Twitter @WMU_SkyBroncos.

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Wings, Waves, and Western

 
Western Michigan University - College of Aviation

                                                    Josh Seaplane

Wings, Waves, and Western
Josh Blain
Aviation Flight Science 

I had my landing spot in sight and started to go through the aircraft’s checklist. I was 1,000 feet above where I wanted to land and flying the traffic pattern spot on. I turned base, checked my airspeed, and it was good. I turned final, added full flaps with another glance at the airspeed indicator. Coming over the trees I went power idle and started my flare. I knew I made contact when I heard SPLASH! Normally airplanes are in emergency situations when they land on water, such as the Miracle on the Hudson, US Airways flight 1549. This was no ordinary airplane; this was Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation seaplane, a beautiful Piper Super Cub on amphibious floats. The airplane was originally a conventional tail dragger, like most of the Piper Cubs flying today, until a project was undertaken by Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation maintenance faculty to install floats. When I was a prospective student, I toured the College of Aviation and fell in love with the seaplane and knew I wanted to fly it.  

I started my flight training at Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation in the fall of 2010 flying the Cirrus SR-20 working on my private pilot’s license. I had flown occasionally in high school but not with the intention to receive a license. I loved flying the Cirrus SR-20 especially with the Avidyne R9 Avionics.  The Cirrus SR-20 and Avidyne R9 can do just about anything an airliner can. Later, in my instrument rating course, I would learn its full potential; I really felt like I was the captain on a jetliner. Once I completed my commercial single engine license it was finally time to start my seaplane training and I still remember getting into the seaplane for the first time. It was a tight squeeze compared to the Cirrus SR-20 that I had been accustomed to. It was also the first airplane I’ve flown to have tandem seating. The cockpit was also very different. I’d flown airplanes with steam gauges before, notably WMU’s Piper PA-44 Seminole and PA-28 Arrow for my commercial multi and single engine licenses, but the seaplane had the most minimalist cockpit I’ve seen.  It did have a GPS and transponder but it didn’t even have an attitude indicator. I asked my instructor about the lack of an attitude indicator to which he responded: “who needs an attitude indicator when you have the horizon” and pointed to the windscreen that offered great visibility.

I completed my preflight inspection, which was just like any other preflight inspection I’ve done, except now I had to pump the excess water out of the floats. I started the engine and taxied to the runway, added full power and off we went. The airplane lifted off the runway with little hesitation. I had become familiar with the practice areas over the two years I had been a flight student but I was always at higher altitudes. Since the lesson only entailed take off and landings on water, there was no need to climb above one thousand feet above the ground, and now I could see the farm fields and country roads with better detail.

Within a few minutes, we had arrived at one of the lakes in the local area. I noticed the lake had a few waves but for the most part was pretty flat. I surveyed the area, runways usually don’t have boats or jet skiers but the lake can be a different story! On a related note, during one of my flights there was a jet skier who wanted to race us as we took off. There weren’t any to contend with that day so I had the lake all to myself. I flew my pattern, usually there are not any houses or trees right next to an airport’s runway but on lakes the shoreline is prime real estate. It was a very cool feeling to be just feet over someone’s house right before we touched down. I saw many cool things during my few hours in the seaplane.

After about three weeks of training I successfully passed my seaplane check ride. The seaplane course at Western Michigan University was definitely something I will remember for the rest of my life. 

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NoLimits-Southwest Airlines Internship Experience

 
Western Michigan University - College of Aviation

NoLimits-Southwest Airlines Intership Experience
Michael Gortowski
Aviation Maintenance Technology 

My journey began in September of 2013 when I applied to the Southwest Airlines NoLimits Internship, for the Maintenance Program Specialist position.  After submitting my application and my resume, I waited anxiously for a phone call or at least an email.  A few months went by, and finally in February of 2014, I received a voicemail from an HR representative, expressing an interest in scheduling an over the phone interview!  What a surprise this was, an incredible feeling, a surreal moment.   From that moment on, things started moving very quickly.

I scheduled a phone interview for March 6, 2014, and few days later, I received an invitation to fly out to Dallas, TX for a second interview on March 21, 2014 at the Southwest Airlines Headquarters.  As soon as I received the invitation, I knew that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to showcase my passion for the field of aviation.  I could not believe that this was really happening!  I grabbed my phone and immediately called my sister and brother-in-law to prepare for the interview.  Preparation was the key!  I knew that this was the opportunity of a lifetime.  Being invited to the interview by itself felt like an award winning experience.  I was feeling very lucky, because Southwest Airlines had received about 14,000 applications for the summer internship, but out of the 14,000 applicants, only 113 were selected to join the NoLimits Internship.  

I was officially accepted into the Southwest Airlines NoLimits Internship on March 26, 2014; a 12-week summer internship from May 19th through August 8th.   This was my first trip to Texas and my first major trip away from home and school.  I didn’t know a single soul in Dallas, TX and this was a true test of the real world and complete independence.  I drove to Dallas a week before my internship started, because I needed to find a place to live.  My suggestion for all future interns is to find a roommate as soon as possible!  The apartment market in Texas is very expensive, and it’s tough to find a short-term lease.  I had to stay in a hotel for the first 2 weeks, and I was very fortunate to find three roommates who were also interns at the Southwest Airlines NoLimits Internship.

At the beginning of my internship, I felt overwhelmed and under pressure to perform well.  But after my first week, I was able to adjust to the new work environment.  As a Maintenance Program Specialist, my job was to review Southwest Airlines’ maintenance program for completeness, accuracy, and regulatory compliance, including maintenance instructions used by the Southwest Airlines technicians to ensure accurate and efficient compliance for required tasks.  I was also updating and auditing computer based systems for tracking the Southwest Airlines maintenance program requirements.

This internship gave me insight into the airline industry.  I learned a lot about the maintenance side of the airline business, especially about the maintenance and regulatory compliance with the FAA.  I was also exposed to other departments within Southwest Airlines.  During the internship, interns were encouraged to spend some time in other departments to learn and explore different aspects of the working world within the company.  My top pick was fuel management and fuel operations, where I had the chance to learn more about Jet A fuel, and about the purchasing and supply of fuel. I also spent some time on the Dallas flight line observing fueling operations.

I worked 40 hours per week, Monday through Friday.  I was assigned to a cubicle down the hall from the hanger.  I spent most of my time looking at regulatory paperwork, task cards, Airworthiness Directives, Supplemental Type Certificates, and attending meetings with my supervisor.  On the way to lunch, I would always cut through the hangar and ramp to check out the Boeing 737.  Southwest Airlines is a wonderful place to work.  The work environment is very joyful and positive.  The company treats its employees very well and everyone has a smile on their face.  The NoLimits Internship is not only about work, Southwest Airlines takes philanthropy and charitable work very seriously, and reaching out to impoverished communities and those in need is an integral part of the company’s culture and beliefs.  With a team of interns, I had the opportunity to volunteer at the local food bank in Dallas, Texas.  It felt good to give back to the community in need.

One way Southwest Airlines showed their appreciation towards their employees and interns was by hosting a deck party every Monday, outside the headquarters building.  All of the Southwest Airlines employees were invited to eat, grab a drink, play games, and have a chance to win a prize.  But one of the biggest perks of working for Southwest Airlines was the opportunity to fly for free on standby, anywhere in the United States.  Thank you Southwest Airlines!  This was the best gift ever.  I spent almost every weekend this summer flying for free and visiting some of the best cities in the world like San Francisco, San Diego, and Las Vegas.  In addition, I made new friends from other universities and cities across the U.S.  I had the opportunity to network and build connections with many professionals within this industry; people that have been in the aviation field for a very long time.  I was very fortunate to be a part of the Southwest Airlines family and have a great supervisor and mentor, Jack Roth.

My internship with Southwest Airlines has been my greatest achievement and experience!  This opportunity has added tremendous value towards my career goals, personal development, and resume.  I gained first hand experience on the maintenance side of commercial airlines.  Prior to my internship, I was leaning towards becoming an aircraft maintenance technician for private/ business jets.  This internship has opened my eyes on a different level.  I have set my mind to go into commercial airline maintenance.  Overall I feel very lucky, grateful, and honored to have been part of the Southwest Airlines team.  I learned a lot from this internship, and hope to apply my experiences toward my academic work at the College of Aviation at WMU and my future career endeavors.

Western Michigan University - College of Aviation
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Why I Chose WMU

 
Western Michigan University - College of Aviation

Western Michigan University
Why I Chose WMU
Rob Minielly
Aviation Flight Science 

Before making my decision to attend Western Michigan University, I was considering other schools for aviation all over the country. I flew out to California, Arizona, and Texas. I loved every campus I toured and loved the states even more. Who doesn’t want to live in California? Or even Texas or Arizona? It was a tough decision to pick a school because all of them had so much to offer. In Arizona, Texas, and California, you have blue skies over 75% of the year. Arizona offered a tougher flight-training program because most of the flying was in the mountains. Both schools in Texas had planes with the standard six-pack, which in my opinion challenges students more than flying an airplane equipped with a glass-cockpit. When I toured Western Michigan University, initially, I was not impressed with Kalamazoo, which is where main campus is located. I did not like the atmosphere compared to the cities other schools were in, and initially did not want to attend a school with the reputation of a party town. But in the end, I chose Western Michigan University and here is why.

Party town. Let’s be honest here, every college has parties whether you are at Arizona State University or a small division 2 college. Attending Western Michigan University has actually been beneficial to me because it has taught me to be independent, and not give into activities that are going on if I have things to do. I know when I can go have fun and when I need to stay in to get things done.

Kalamazoo was just rated the seventh most fun city in the state. There are plenty of things to do if you step out of the campus bubble and venture out. During summer breaks, I spend a lot of my time fishing on the numerous lakes 15 minutes south of Kalamazoo, boating, and driving to South Haven, a city on the shore of Lake Michigan, with all of my friends. I also enjoy riding my dirt bike on the trails all over West Michigan and have also found a track to race at 20 minutes north of Kalamazoo. In the fall, I spend all of my free time hunting. West Michigan is great for hunting, especially the state land because it is usually unpopulated which is extremely rare in other parts of the state. As for Western, our sporting events are always a hot spot to be. Our hockey games are known to get wild. The student section, called the “Lawson Lunatics,” was voted the second best student section in all of college hockey. College is what you make of it. Venturing out of the campus bubble allowed for a great three years. I have visited many schools where my friends attend and I can honestly say Western Michigan University has some of the friendliest people you will meet. You can walk up to anyone and instantly make new friends.

In terms of academics, the College of Aviation is primarily why I chose Western Michigan University.  They have a name respected nationwide, state-of-the-art aircraft, and faculty with unrivaled experience. While wearing a WMU Aviation shirt, I cannot tell you the number of times that someone has come up to me and asked about our aviation program and shared the good things they have heard. Our reputation does not lie. Graduates receive a degree that already puts them ahead in the industry.  Most of all, the quality of flight training is top of the line. Students start their flight training in a Cirrus SR-20 which is a single engine, 200hp, 4-seat plane. It has a glass cockpit, which means there are not traditional steam gauges; there are two screens that give you more information than you typically need to know. The automation in the plane is incredible, autopilot can be used almost the whole flight although that is rarely allowed for training purposes. 

The four seasons of Michigan are challenging in more ways than most schools. One of the first things you learn is determining the weather and if today is a good day or a bad day for a flight lesson. You don’t get to experience flying in the snow and icy conditions in Arizona, Texas, or California. You rarely get to shoot an instrument approach coming out of the clouds 500ft above the ground. Here, runways are almost always covered in snow during the winter, and flying in these conditions challenges students in more ways than other schools can offer. People know about Western Michigan University Aviation. The College of Aviation has built a tremendous name in the past 75 years and hopes to make that name even stronger in the next 75.

Western Michigan University - College of Aviation
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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.”

Western Michigan University - College of Aviation
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