University’s aviation department reaches new partnership with regional airline.
The aviation department of Henderson State University announced a new partnership with ExpressJet Airlines Inc. Thursday afternoon.
Capt. Dan Robertson (retired) provided students with information regarding the pilot pathway program.
"We have a new agreement signed that is really going to be a great boost for the airline industry," Roberston said.
The pilot pathway program creates a pathway from high school to college and from a regional airline to a major airline.
Roberston noted that participates of the pilot pathway program are guaranteed interviews with ExpressJet Airlines and Delta Airlines.
"At your level, probably you don't realize how important that is. But I can assure you I have airline pilots that fly for us today, that if you could fly with one arm, they would give their right arm to have an interview with Delta Airlines," Robertson said.
As part of the program, pilots will come to Henderson to mentor students in the aviation program.
"We're going to help you get there. We will do anything we can to help you on with regional airlines plus help you get on with a major airline," said Robertson.
According to Robertson, the program will help students get most of their necessary credits at Henderson State University. The students will need letters of recommendation from the senior flight operation staff to help them a obtain a good work ethic.
In addition to having a desire to become a pilot, Robertson said airlines look for pilots who have a good work ethic.
Students have to sign a document in order to participate in the program. The document allows staff of ExpressJet Airlines to check the student's work ethic, grooming, dress, and class attendance.
"What we will do is ultimately come in with our testing computers and interview you right here on campus," said Robertson.
The interview can be done during a student's junior year, senior year, or after their graduation.
According to Robertson, multiple airlines are faced with a shortage of qualified pilots.
Robertson noted there was a drop in the number of pilots hired in the United States from 2001 to 2002.
"That was after the terrorist attacks," Robertson explained.
The number of pilots increased from 2003 to 2007 before experiencing another decline due to crude oil prices.
In addition, Robertson said other factors such as negative media portrayal, drastic reduction in available loans, and high interest rates have blocked aspiring pilots from pursuing a career in aviation.
According to Robertson, the average pilot at ExpressJet Airlines enjoys approximately 14 days off each month.
While the starting pay for a pilot is low, Robertson said there is the possibility of pilots earning more as time progresses.
"We take tremendous pride in producing academic programs to meet the needs of our region, our state, and our country. We take tremendous pride in producing graduates who are driven, not just to make a dollar, but a difference in the lives of the people they serve," said Dr. Glen Jones, president of Henderson State University.
Jones expressed his appreciation to the students who are part of the university's aviation program, the current and former directors of the program, and to ExpressJet for the opportunity.
"We are looking forward to a long partnership with you guys," said Jones.
Thursday's event was attended by every director of the aviation program, as well as several community members.