Prior to his career as a Trans States A & P mechanic, Mike Russell was an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) in New York City for over two decades. Mike’s job at Trans States comes with American Airlines travel benefits, which he recently used to fly to Kingston, Jamaica to visit family. Little did he know that during the trip, he would need to put his EMT training to work to help save a life in midair.
During the first leg of his trip, a flight from St. Louis to Miami, a passenger began experiencing shortness of breath, as well as other symptoms of a potentially serious medical condition. When a flight attendant asked if any of the passengers had medical training, Mike and a doctor on board jumped into action. Mike assisted the doctor in caring for the passenger until the flight could divert to Atlanta and the passenger could receive medical attention on the ground.
American Airlines was very impressed with Mike’s selfless actions, and sent him the below note of appreciation, as well as a voucher for future travel.
Dear Mr. Russell:
Please accept our company’s formal “Thank You” for the assistance you provided aboard your recent flight. We are all grateful that you were on board and freely offered your medical expertise when it was needed most. Without a doubt, you greatly improved a difficult situation.
As an expression of our appreciation for volunteering your time and experience, we’ve made arrangements for an eVoucher for you to use toward the purchase of a ticket to travel with us. I realize your offer of assistance was not motivated by any potential reward. Nevertheless, we wanted you to know how much your efforts were appreciated.
Whether it’s in our hangar or in the air, Mike can always be counted on to put others first. We’re proud that he’s part of our team.
There’s a lot that a Trans States flight attendant has to learn before they’re released from training – and it goes beyond providing exceptional customer service. Flight attendants are there for our passengers’ safety, and the majority of their training centers around safety-related drills and exercises. Our flight attendants spend weeks practicing everything from inflight medical emergencies and emergency equipment operation, to emergency evacuation procedures.
However, some of this training simply can’t be done in a classroom – it has to be done on an actual aircraft so that the practice situation will be as close as possible to what a flight attendant will face in real life. “For example, flight attendants are responsible for evacuating passengers during an emergency situation,” explained Shonn Clark, Director of Inflight Services at Trans States. “Before they are ever allowed to fly with passengers, our flight attendants have to demonstrate that they can execute an emergency evacuation on an actual Trans States Airlines Embraer 145 aircraft.”
Until recently, the only option our flight attendants had for getting critical hands-on training was waiting for one of our aircraft to become available at our maintenance hangar. Since aircraft can only be used for training purposes after their scheduled flights are complete and after any scheduled maintenance has been performed, it was often the middle of the night before our flight attendants were able to start their drills. However, the recent installation of our new cabin trainer changed that.
Practically and functionally, the cabin trainer looks and performs exactly like a static aircraft. In fact, minus a few rows of seats, the interior perfectly mimics the interior of our Embraer 145 aircraft, which make it the ideal flight attendant training tool. “The attention to detail is amazing,” Shonn remarked. “It actually feels like you’re sitting in one of our aircraft.”
The cabin trainer has the exact same emergency equipment as our actual aircraft, and has been certified by the FAA for use in medical, firefighting, and emergency evacuation drills. It can even simulate smoke in the cabin, providing an unprecedented level of reality to training exercises. The cabin trainer can also be used for non-emergency training, such as the practicing the beverage service and learning to use the PA system to communicate with passengers and the flight deck.
In addition to providing a top-notch training environment, the cabin trainer has also expedited the training process. “Our overall training footprint has actually decreased, as the trainer is always at our disposal,” explained Shonn. “In the past, there would be times when we were ready to start our drills, but had to wait for an aircraft to come available at the hangar.”
As one of just a few regional airlines with an on-site cabin trainer, Trans States is now at the forefront of inflight training. “My team was excited when they first heard that we’d be getting a cabin trainer,” concludes Shonn, “and now that we have it, they couldn’t be happier.”
If you’d like to join our team of flight attendants, click here to learn more.
This spring, Trans States had the opportunity to welcome math students from McCluer High School in St. Louis to our corporate offices and hangar facility for the third year in a row. Their instructor, Jenna Henderson, is a lifelong aviation enthusiast, who started organizing annual field trips to Trans States after learning about aviation career opportunities from her neighbor, Jan McCall.
Even though many of Jenna’s students had never even flown before, let alone considered aviation as a career, she jumped at chance to visit Trans States with her students. “Trans States is in my students’ backyard, and it offers many career paths that they may not even know about,” she explained. An annual tradition was born.
This year’s tour included a tour of the cabin trainer that our flight attendants use to practice everything from the beverage service to emergency evacuation drills, as well as a demonstration of the Graphical Flight Simulators that our pilots use during training.
Students also toured Systems Operations Control (SOC), where they learned about career opportunities in Dispatch, Crew Scheduling and Maintenance Control. During the SOC tour, the students spoke with McCluer alum and Maintenance Controller Bryan Cross, who told the students about his career and the steps that he took to get where he is today.
The highlight of the trip is always the visit to the Trans States hangar facility, where students have the opportunity to get hands on with our Embraer 145 aircraft and watch our mechanics in action. For many of the students, it’s the first time that they’ve ever been near an airplane. “I’ve never been around this type of environment before,” student Carlando Dickens remarked. “It’s different and interesting.”
The trip is also a great opportunity for Jenna to show her students how the math skills they are learning in class will be important later in life. This resonated with student Megan Robinson, who remarked, “It’s really interesting to see how the mechanics basically have to take the entire plane apart, and then put it back together. With all of the measurements that they have to do, it makes sense that they would have to understand mathematical problem solving.”
Her classmate, Hailey Drake, agreed. “I’m glad to see that what we learn in school becomes important later on in life,” she added. “Being able to use math calculations can help you do what you want to do for a living, just like the mechanics I’m meeting today.”
Assisting with the field trip was future Trans States pilot Adam Lange. Adam, who is part of Trans States’ Aviators program for aspiring collegiate pilots, enjoyed the chance to teach people about the airline industry. “I don’t remember ever having an opportunity like this when I was in school,” he admits. “It’s important that kids know about the options that exist in their own hometown.”
Trans States Chief Operating Officer Fred Oxley couldn’t be happier about the annual visit from the McCluer students. “As an industry, it is our duty to inspire the next generation of aviators,” he said. “In the coming years, I hope to encounter these students flying our planes, fixing our planes, and serving our passengers.”
To learn more about career opportunities at Trans States, please click here.
When a Trans States flight diverted to Raleigh, a quick-thinking flight crew ensured that a critically important shipment of transplant tissues was saved. The shipment contained corneas, which were en route to a medical center in Providence when the flight was diverted.
Fortunately, Flight Attendant Binh Kbuor noticed that the shipment had a notation asking for any delay information to be sent to a telephone number on the box. Binh showed the notation to Captain Jason Secondi, who immediately followed up with MNX Global Logistics, the company that had coordinated the shipment.
In the below note, the COO of MNX Global Logistics explains how Binh and Jason’s actions ensured that the valuable tissues were saved and could be used in a future surgery.
“We were shipping corneas for transplant, when the flight was diverted to Raleigh. The pilot, Jason Secondi, took it upon himself to call the consignee in Providence from his personal cell phone and let them know the corneas were delayed. That information was passed to us at our call center, and we were able to speak directly to Jason several times. He was extremely helpful, and although the intended surgery was missed, we were able to recover the shipment from a ground agent in Raleigh and return the corneas to the lab in Birmingham and salvage the precious tissue. Without Jason’s actions, this tissue would have been lost.
We always appreciate our partnership with American Airlines Cargo, but at times like this, we must recognize Jason’s actions, going above and beyond, to assist us with this precious shipment.
As always, we thank you and your team for all your support, and a very special thank you to Jason for going the extra mile and assuring the tissue wasn’t lost and guaranteeing the gift of sight for someone who needs it.”
When maintenance found a wallet on one of our aircraft without any contact details for the owner, Trans States mechanic Chris Gage went above and beyond to track down the owner.
As the former CEO of Baxter International, and now a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg school of Management, I was truly surprised about something that recently happened to me. I was on a United flight in one of your planes from Chicago to Charlotte, and when I arrived at my hotel, I discovered I had lost my wallet for the first time in 50 years.
I called United, they searched the plane and found nothing. I was going to cancel all of my credit cards and stop payment on the several checks in my wallet, but I was running to give a speech and didn’t have time. Since my phone number was not in my wallet, I gave up hope. To my complete surprise, the next day I received a call from Chris Gage.
He told me that one of his colleagues had found the wallet, and he wanted to send it to me ASAP. When I asked how he located me, he stated that he had tried a number of ways to track me down, and when he found an AAA card in the wallet, he called them and was able to obtain my mobile number.
I have never met Chris Gage, but he struck me as a true values-based person, someone the world clearly needs more of.
When I thanked him, he told me he was just doing his job and didn’t need to be thanked.
Chris represents the values that drive us as a company – integrity, honesty, and perseverance. Chris is just one of hundreds of Trans States employees around the country going above and beyond for our passengers each and every day.
Interested in a career in aviation? Southwestern Illinois College (SWIC) offers a number of affordable aviation career programs, including Aviation Management, Aviation Maintenance Technology, and Aviation Pilot Training. These programs have been designed to prepare students to jump right into their chosen field upon completion of their coursework. “Our biggest focus is for students to be comfortable, as well as successful, in the airline training environment by the end of a two to four-year program,” says Keith Mueller, Coordinator of Aviation Flight Management at SWIC.
When SWIC aviation instructors want to show their students how their work in the classroom relates to their future careers, they bring their students to our corporate headquarters in St. Louis, for a behind-the-scenes look at the skills required to land a job at a commercial airline.
A typical visit includes a tour of the Trans States maintenance hangar and a demonstration of the state-of-the-art simulators that our pilots use during training. Students also have the opportunity to meet company leadership, as well as talk with our various training departments about what a commercial airline will expect of them.
“These visits are incredibly valuable because they allow students to make a connection between what they’re learning in class and the skills that will be required in their chosen field,” explains Keith Stamper, Director of Flight Operations at Trans States. For example, when touring our maintenance hangar, students in SWIC’s Aviation Maintenance Technology program can actually see Trans States mechanics utilizing the skills that they’re studying in school.
These visits are also valuable to SWIC faculty, as they help ensure that the skills taught in class are consistent with current industry standards. Aviation is an ever-changing industry, which means that aviation training programs must be able to quickly change with the times. SWIC’s relationship with Trans States ensures that SWIC instructors are always up-to-speed on the latest training and skills that airlines will expect of their graduates, allowing them to adapt their courses accordingly.
SWIC Academic Advisors also get the same behind-the-scene tour as students and instructors. Academic Advisors are usually a student’s first point of contact with the school, and are responsible for helping students navigate the different program offerings. “Our Academic Advisors tour Trans States so that they can better understand how our aviation programs will prepare students for the airline industry,” Mueller explains. “We feel that these tours have been tremendously successful.”
There’s never been a better time to launch a career in aviation. If you’re looking for an affordable aviation training program that will prepare you for an exciting and in-demand career, contact SWIC today. We’re looking forward to hiring you when you finish.
The type of hockey that most of us are familiar with has few non-negotiable requirements. Ice, for one, and skates. And knowing how to skate is usually pretty helpful. However, a group of Trans States mechanics has discovered that you don’t have to know how to skate, or even own a pair of ice skates, to play hockey. They play floor hockey as part of a local St. Louis floor hockey league.
While floor hockey players use sticks to get a puck into a net guarded by a goalie, that’s where the similarity to ice hockey ends. There’s no ice in sight in floor hockey – teams typically play in gymnasiums – and floor hockey players simply wear shoes and run around, rather than using ice skates.
Heavy Check Supervisor Mark Hicks got the idea to start the team after seeing a video for St. Louis Floor Hockey on the internet. Our maintenance hangar is in St. Louis, home of the Blues professional hockey team, and Mark knew that a lot of mechanics were interested in hockey, even if they’d never played before. Mark first pitched the idea of a team to Line Lead Mechanic Levi Mcquery, who initially thought that he was too old for floor hockey. However, once he watched the video, which explained that most of the teams were comprised of college students or co-workers, and that some of the players had never even played hockey before, he was sold. Before long, Mark had rounded up a team of 10 mechanics, all from the St. Louis hangar.
Half of the team had never even touched a hockey stick before, let alone played on a team. “One mechanic had never played hockey before in his life,” says Mark, “and he still tried it out, and loved it.” But even with so many hockey newbies, Line Inspector Bill Reese is confident that their team is making progress, remarking, “I think we get better every game!”
“I would never bet on us, though,” chimes in Levi, laughing, “and I’m always making stupid bets on professional ice hockey, like having to shave ‘Red Wings’ in the back of my head.”
The league’s no checking rules means that floor hockey isn’t nearly as physical as ice hockey, which Mark points out is great for people who have day jobs. “We can’t exactly get too physical at a night game when we all have work the next day.”
The team has already experienced some memorable plays. “I got us our first ever penalty,” laughs Bill, “and I still don’t agree with it.
Other mechanics from the hangar don’t play, but still come out to watch. And if they want to try it for themselves before committing to a team, league rules make it easy for them to give it a shot and see how they like it – anyone can play a single game as a substitute for only $10.
One of the best things about working in the airline industry is the travel benefits. Trans States employees are fortunate to have a wide range of affordable air fare options available to them, ranging from free domestic travel, to heavily discounted international travel. As a result, Trans States employees tend to travel a lot, and their children often develop a love for travel at a young age. When the children of Trans States employees grow into teenagers afflicted by wanderlust, they can spend up to two weeks in another country as part of a special program for airline families called the International Youth Exchange.
The International Youth Exchange pairs up teens from airline families in different countries and gives them each the opportunity to spend two weeks with the family they are matched with. After a participant spends two weeks with a host family, they return home, and the teen they were matched with stays with them for two weeks.
Participants are matched based on similarities in age, gender, and interests, as well as where they would like to visit. Available locations include the United States, Europe, Canada, and Australia. After the teens are matched and dates are decided, the participants communicate with one another so that they can get to know each other, as well as decide what activities they would like to do during their summer exchange.
The International Youth Exchange is the brainchild of Camille Wheeler, a retired Northwest Airlines employee, and the mother of Aaron Wheeler, a regional airline Captain. Camille is the mother of four, and international travel for a family of six can be expensive, even with pass benefits. On the International Youth Exchange website, Camille explains that the program was born from her desire for her children to be able to affordably travel abroad, learn different languages, and experience new cultures. Aaron says that his mom first got the idea for the program when his family took a trip to France when he was younger. She was looking for different options to avoid hotel costs, and began making connections with other airline families abroad.
Camille soon realized that there were other airline families all over the world who were interested in affordable international travel opportunities for their children. The program slowly began to take shape. Teens could fly overseas using their parents’ pass privileges, and stay for free for two weeks with an airline host family. Then the teens would switch, and a teen from host family could visit the other teen’s home during a separate two week visit.
In 1994, Camille connected with a Swiss Air gate agent in Geneva, Switzerland, and young Aaron became the first participant in the International Youth Exchange program. He was matched with a Swiss teen, Greg Cunnet, who was around the same age, and shared his interests. “When Greg came to visit, we just hung out, played baseball and biked,” Aaron recalls. When Aaron and Greg first met, Greg was only beginning to learn English. “Since he grew up traveling in airplanes, he would always read the safety instructions. In fact, the first time that we met, all he could say in English was, ‘Fast-ten-seat-belt.’”
After Greg stayed with his family, Aaron visited Geneva and stayed with Greg’s family. Aaron recalls mostly doing things that were familiar to him from back home.
“We went swimming, biked around town, and even played Monopoly.Even a young age, I was struck by how we had more in common than not, even though we lived so far apart.”
Aaron and Greg continued to visit each other for 7 years through the program, and are still friends. “We still visit each other when we can,” Aaron said. “I even went to his wedding about a year and a half ago.”
The International Youth Exchange has come a long way from its one inaugural participant in 1994. It has since placed over 6,000 students in exchanges. “In 1994,” jokes Aaron, “we just had a single fax machine running twenty-four-seven. We would get applications from Europe in the middle of the night! But now, applicants can apply online.”
Aaron continues to help his mother with the program, who is now devoted to it full-time. “I actually matched a young boy from Minneapolis,” recalls Aaron, “and his mom happened to be my gate agent for a while. Every couple of months, we would bump into each other, and she would say how much her son enjoyed the experience.” He recounts another story from years ago, in which a young person was matched up with a family in Seattle. The father of the family flew for an airline in the area. The program participant loved Seattle so much, that years later, he got in touch with the father and ended up working for that same airline.
Aaron’s experiences with the International Youth Exchange have stayed with him through the years, and he encourages other airline families to take advantage of the opportunities for travel and friendship that the program offers.
“I truly believe that there is no better way to experience another country than with someone your own age,” he says.
The International Youth Exchange is currently accepting applications for summer 2017 exchanges. Put those travel benefits to work, and give your teenager a summer they’ll never forget. Download the program flyer here or visit the International Youth Exchange website to learn more and apply online.
If a group of people was asked, “What jobs are most important to airline operations?”, the top three responses would probably include pilots, mechanics and flight attendants. However, there’s a lot more to airline operations than what you see at the airport or on a flight. Most people don’t realize that our planes wouldn’t fly without the efforts of another important department – Accounting.
Accounting pays the bills, for everything ranging from building utilities and aircraft parts, to fuel expenses and uniforms. After 26 years on the job, retiring Accounts Payable Supervisor Terry Boswell knows the importance of ensuring that vendors are paid in a timely manner. For example, if fuel invoices go unpaid, fuelers could refuse to service our aircraft, which could lead to a delay or even a cancellation. Unpaid bills could delay shipments of important aircraft parts, which could lead to cancelled flights.
“Without making sure that bills are paid on time, the process of keeping the airline running on time, let alone at all, could be hindered,” Terry explains. “You can’t delay in making sure that you bring in needed aircraft parts or engine rents.”
Controller Bob Varwig agrees. “To run an efficient airline, you have to ensure the quick flow of parts and services. Terry understands that Accounts Payable has to maintain good relationships with our vendors to make that happen.”
Change is the only constant in the airline industry, and Terry has seen a lot of changes in her 25+ years with the company, including our transition from turbo prop aircraft to an all jet fleet in the 1990s, as well as a period of tremendous growth from 2014 t0 2016 that added 52 additional aircraft to our fleet. With change comes new challenges for our accountants – new aircraft types mean new vendors, and an expanded fleet means more bills to pay – but Terry says that change is easy with the right team.
“I’ve had lots of fun with my coworkers, and we’ve shared many good times, even when tackling new challenges. Adapting to something new can be stressful, but it’s much easier when you enjoy the company of those around you.”
Terry says that her 25 years at Trans States have flown by, remarking, “I have always enjoyed working here. Time really goes fast when you’re in a good environment surrounded by great people.”
With retirement on the horizon, Terry is looking forward to traveling around the country and visiting all the National Parks with her husband. We are grateful for her years of service, and wish her all the best!
Our Aviators internship program provides talented student pilots with a defined pathway to the Trans States flight deck upon completion of ATP minimums. Throughout the course of the program, participants are mentored by Trans States pilots, are provided with advance copies of training materials, and participate in the Trans States Airlines Command Leadership course, a program typically offered only to Trans States Airlines command pilots. Interns also visit corporate headquarters in St. Louis to get a behind-the-scenes look at the operation and to meet Trans States leadership.
During a recent group trip to St. Louis, three of our current Aviators shared their insights about the program, including how it will benefit their careers.
Dakota Knaff is a sophomore at Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation, where he is studying Aviation Flight Science and Aviation Operations Management. Dakota is looking forward to flying the Embraer 145 when he becomes a Trans States pilot. “I’ve always wanted to fly the Embrear 145,” he enthused. “I flew on one last year to Houston, and I prefer it over the Embraer 175. It’s smaller, but quick and sleek.”
Dakota is excited about the networking opportunities that Aviators provides student pilots. “I don’t know of any other airline that brings students to their corporate headquarters, especially if they’re private pilots,” he remarked. “Being able to meet the Director of Flight Operations is just one example of the endless connections that I know I will make through Aviators.”
A sophomore at Embry-Riddle in Daytona, Tayvon Gaddis is studying Aeronautical Science with a minor in Meteorology, and is finishing his instrument rating. “I saw a link for Aviators on Facebook that someone just happened to share. I immediately saw the benefits to getting a head start in the professional aviation world.” The headquarters visit solidified his impression of Trans States as a great place to launch his career. “Everyone is friendly and helpful,” he said. “I will absolutely work for Trans States after I complete the Aviators program, because the end result is having a job at a good airline.”
Daniel Shnick is an Aviation and Finance double-major at Quincy University, and is currently working on his CFI rating. Daniel discovered Aviators when he was looking for something that would benefit his career while he finished school. “I met some very enthusiastic Trans States recruiters at Quincy, and they told me about the program,” he explains. “What really stood out to me was the headquarters visit, training opportunities, and having a pilot mentor.” Daniel is especially looking forward to gaining interview preparation tips from his mentor.
We’re looking forwarding to welcoming these talented pilots to the Trans Sates flight deck in the future. In the meantime, we’ll be helping them lay the groundwork for a successful commercial aviation career. If you’d like to join them, click here for more information and to apply online.
We had a busy 2016! We introduced you to some one-of-a-kind people and highlighted some extraordinary happenings within our company. Let’s take a look back to some of our favorite posts from TRANSmissions this past year.
In what was far and away our most read and shared blog entry of the year, Trans States Airlines Flight Instruction Manager Paul Epperson shares his tips and advice for what to expect and how to prepare for the adjustment into 121 ground school.
Some of our Raleigh-based crew members had the opportunity to be a part of a very special event co-sponsored by American Airlines and the Autism Society of North Carolina. The event simulated the airport experience for children with autism so that they would know what to expect the first time they boarded a commercial flight. The children also had the opportunity to board a Trans States Embraer 145, and were shown exactly what would happen during the first 20 minutes of a real flight.
Trans States’ Sam Curless helped the St. Louis Shriners Air Patrol when they were in dire need of a new parade float. Through his connections, Sam was able to help organize a build of a new float, made out of an Embraer 145 fuselage. The float made its debut at the St. Louis Thanksgiving Day Parade to an excited crowd, and a group of Shriners kids who got to ride it for the first time!
Trans States Airlines Vice President of Safety Craig Tompkins recently accomplished a pretty lofty goal that he’d set for himself in 2014 – to fly 70 different aircraft before his 70th birthday. Craig reached his milestone right on time, flying aircraft type #70, a Cessna 170 on floats, just before his 70th birthday in October.
Before becoming a aircraft mechanic for Trans States Airlines, Brandi Rector spent six years in the United States Marine Corps as a helicopter aerial gunner and mechanic. Now she dedicates her time to ensuring that our aircraft operate safely and efficiently, all while attending full-time classes at Saint Louis University.
We’ll be back in 2017 with more posts dedicated to the extraordinary individuals who call Trans States home. Happy New Year!
Recently some of our Raleigh-based crew members had the opportunity to be a part of a very special event co-sponsored by American Airlines and the Autism Society of North Carolina. The event simulated the airport experience for children with autism so that they would know what to expect the first time they boarded a commercial flight. The children also had the opportunity to board a Trans States Embraer 145, and were shown exactly what would happen during the first 20 minutes of a real flight.
Captain Jonathan Jones, who was in the cockpit during the simulated flight experience, believes that the experience was a great way to acclimate autistic children to the airport environment before actually taking a flight. “Often times, environments like airports can be overwhelming for families touched by autism,” he remarked. “This means that families are putting their expenses at risk if they have to cancel travel plans due if their children become affected by the airport setting.”
The simulation exposed the children to just about every aspect of catching a flight, with the exception of taking off. The children and their families checked in with a gate agent at the ticket counter and checked their bags. After going through security, they headed to the gate area, where Captain Jones, as well as First Officer Will Browne, and Flight Attendants Amy Furlough and Misty Burmingham, spent the afternoon making them feel comfortable, even showing them pictures of what the inside of the aircraft would look like. The children then boarded the aircraft via a jetbridge. During the boarding process, the children were given gift bags to commemorate the experience, including their very own wings, just like our crew members wear.
After the children and their families were settled with their seatbelts fastened, the flight “took off” by pushing back from the gate and taxiing for about 20 minutes to a remote parking spot. Before the flight “descended” and returned to the terminal, there was even a beverage service.
Captain Jones said that organizers deemed the event a complete success, and the kids loved it, especially receiving the gift bags with the wings inside. “That really made their day,” he added. Captain Jones went on to remark on the importance of giving back to the communities we serve. “Our passengers are our neighbors. Events like this give us an opportunity to back to our them, and to actively contribute to our community.”
Thanksgiving is just around the corner! For many people, Thanksgiving means family, food, football, and of course, parades. The annual St. Louis Thanksgiving Day Parade will be extra special this year, as the St. Louis Moolah of Shriners International will be debuting a brand new float, made out of an Embraer 145 fuselage. Waving to the crowd from the windows of the plane will be children currently undergoing high quality orthopedic treatment at Shriners Hospital for Children in St. Louis. The Shriners are a fraternal organization dedicated to providing care for children free of charge. In addition to orthopedic care, this St. Louis hospital also treats burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palates, as well as provides other complex surgical needs.
Trans States’ own, Sam Curless has been involved in this inspiring project since its inception. Sam was in the process of joining his local chapter when he heard about the Shriners’ Air Patrol parade float – an old, dilapidated Charlie Brown float from the 1960s that was in sore need of replacement.
Some members had mentioned that an aviation-inspired float would be especially fitting, as it could shine a light on the important work done by the Shriners Moolah Air Patrol.
Children with severe orthopedic needs often have to travel far from home to receive care, which can be draining on a family’s finances. That’s where the Air Patrol steps in. As Air Patrol Director John Cordell explains, “We are a division of the Shriners that is transportation focused. When families need to get to St. Louis because a child requires orthopedic care, we find a way to fly them here at no cost.” Volunteer Shriner pilots fly children and their families to St. Louis on their own time, via their own planes or borrowed private aircraft. If the Air Patrol doesn’t have a plane or pilot to accommodate a family, they will fly the family in commercially, or coordinate with Wings of Hope, another charity that provides air travel to families in need. Once families arrive in St. Louis, the Air Patrol transports them to the Ronald McDonald House, Haven House, and other places where they can stay during the duration of their child’s treatment.
When Sam heard about the Shriners Air Patrol’s wish for an aviation-themed float, he knew that he could help. While finding a company to donate an aircraft fuselage for most would be a challenge, it wasn’t for Sam. As the Managing Director of Strategic Sourcing and Materials at Trans States, Sam works with aircraft manufacturers, lessors, and parts vendors all over the world. Sam put the Shriners in touch with AeroVision International, an aircraft lessor and Embraer 134/145 parts distributor, who donated a fuselage for the float. It was then gutted and fitted with custom chairs donated by aircraft manufacturer Embraer.
Everything about the float was created with Shriners kids in mind. “This is not a Mardi Gras party barge,” says Sam. “This is something special for children undergoing treatment, some of whom may never have been on plane before.” John agrees. “We really wanted to go for that, ‘wow factor,’ with this float,” he said. “On the outside, it looks like a brand new plane. But on the inside, it’s all about the kids.” The aisles are wide, to accommodate wheelchairs, and the interior includes lights and air conditioning. During the parade, children can sit in either the fuselage or the cockpit. “We even raised the seats in the cockpit eighteen inches, so that the kids can see out of the windows and look at the crowd,” John added.
All in all, the project required over six hundred hours of labor, and the joint efforts of many. “This project was not just isolated to St. Louis,” Sam stressed. “All around the country, people associated with the Shriners chipped in to help with this project.”
To see the final results of this amazing project, be sure to watch the parade on Thanksgiving Day, broadcast live on KMOV-TV Channel 4 in St. Louis.
The Shriners are always looking for volunteers, including pilots for the Air Patrol. Click here to learn to more about how you can get involved with this incredible organization.
Update (November 28, 2016):
Check out the photos below of the float in action at the 2016 St. Louis Thanksgiving Day Parade!
Trans States Airlines Vice President of Safety Craig Tompkins recently accomplished a pretty lofty goal that he’d set for himself in 2014 – to fly 70 different aircraft before his 70th birthday. Craig reached his milestone right on time, flying aircraft type #70, a Cessna 170 on floats, just before his 70th birthday in October.
Craig’s love of aviation started over 50 years ago, when he was still in high school and already a fixture at his local airport. “I had my private pilot’s license,” he remarks, “but my parents wouldn’t let me get my driver’s license until I graduated high school. So I could fly planes, but I had to bum a ride from somebody else to get to the airport.” After graduating from high school, Craig enlisted in the Army and became an air traffic controller, and later spent 15 years flying charters and air taxis, as well as flight instructing.
Craig’s commercial airline career began in 1977, when he was hired by Command Airways, one of the very first regional airlines. Command Airways is historically significant because it was one of the first three American Connection carriers and was the first airline in the United States to fly the ATR 42. Before bringing the ATR to market, Command sent a group of pilots, including Craig, to Toulouse, France, to train at the actual ATR factory, making Craig one of the first pilots in the U.S. to fly the aircraft.
Craig spent 11 years at Command, eventually becoming the Director of Flight Training and running its entire ATR operation. In 1988, Resort Air (now Trans States Airlines) purchased the ATR portion of Command’s operation, and Craig has been with Trans States family of airlines ever since, holding positions including Director of Flight Ops, Director of Safety, and Vice President of Safety.
In 2013, Craig was a recipient of the prestigious Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award, which recognizes pilots “who have exhibited professionalism, skill, and aviation expertise for at least 50 years.” Prior to receiving the award, Craig had to figure out just how many different aircraft he had flown, and realized that he was 67 years old and had flown 67 different aircraft. It was then that his goal of flying 70 different aircraft in 70 years was born. “When I saw that, I just wanted to make the numbers match up – 70 in 70,” he explains.
Here are just a few of the planes that Craig has flown over the years:
To most people, flying 70 different aircraft types before your 70th birthday would be a pretty big deal, but Craig is nonchalant about it, remarking, “My stepbrother has probably flown over 100 aircraft types at this point.” Of all the planes he has flown, Craig’s favorites are the DC-3 and the Twin Otter. Craig says that he doesn’t have any immediate plans to top his recent feat of 70 in 70 but there are several seaplanes that he’d like to fly, so he’s not ruling it out. “My wife tells me that I should shoot for flying 80 planes by the time I’m 80, but maybe I’ll start with flying 75 aircraft by the time that I’m 75 years old.”
Anyone who knows Craig has no doubt that he’ll do both.
Fall doesn’t just bring cooler temperatures and changing leaves – at Trans States Airlines, fall also brings our annual Employee Appreciation Week celebration! This week-long event, packed with food, games, and prizes, is our way of saying thank you to our employees for all of their hard work This year’s festivities wrapped up last Friday, and everyone is still talking about all of the fun they had.
One of the best things about Employee Appreciation Week is the food! Base Managers at all of our crew bases spent the week making sure that our crews were well fed. Our Raleigh crew had a smorgasbord of sweets on Monday, followed by breakfast sandwiches, sandwich rolls, tacos and pizza.
Brenton Daniels, the Denver Base Manager, took advantage of the nice weather to barbecue for employees right on the ramp!
We also gave away a FitBit at each crew base! Congratulations to Captain Jorge Velasquez, who won the FitBit given away in St. Louis!
At the St. Louis headquarters on Tuesday, corporate leaders threw a “come as you are” breakfast (which was pajamas for many) for all employees, complete with a caricature booth and balloon artist. The leadership team manned griddles and hotplates, and served up an impressive spread that included sausage, eggs, pancakes, and even a smoothie bar.
Other events throughout the week included the very popular “Take Your Dog To Work Day,”
a gourmet cupcake truck,
and a friendly game of Family Feud that pitted Trans States employees against employees of our sister carrier, GoJet Airlines.
One of the biggest events of the week was the annual washers tournament. This year was the tournament’s biggest year yet, with 35 teams participating. Our Maintenance department has established a washers dynasty over the years, and many teams from other departments were eager to de-throne them. However, Maintenance remained dominant again this year, and we again had a Maintenance vs. Maintenance championship game!
Maintenance was again dominant on Friday, winning the annual tug-of-war competition between Maintenance Hangar and the corporate office.
On Friday, employees also enjoyed a barbecue
a mini-classic car show (we have some employees with really cool cars!).
and an afternoon of “knockerball.”
Employee Appreciation Week 2016 was definitely one to remember! We’re already looking forward to next year!
At any given moment, there are hundreds of Trans States Airlines employees working behind the scenes to ensure the safe operation of our airline. Unlike more visible front-line employees, like pilots or flight attendants, our passengers will never meet these employees or have the opportunity to thank them for their efforts. But every day, these un-sung heroes are working tirelessly to make sure that our passengers get to their destinations safely. One of these individuals is Maintenance Control Supervisor Chris Hoover.
Maintenance Controllers are licensed A & P mechanics who troubleshoot aircraft mechanical issues for pilots flying the line and mechanics at out stations. If a pilot encounters a mechanical issue with an aircraft, their first call is to Maintenance Control. Often, Maintenance Control can walk the pilot through the issue over the phone, which frees up out-station mechanics for more involved repairs. If it’s a more complicated problem, Maintenance Control will diagnose the likely source of the problem and recommended a course of action to local mechanics.
“Maintenance Controllers are critical to on-time performance, ” said Trans States Airlines Director of Maintenance, Matt Wright. “In addition to assisting and providing detailed information to our technicians in the field, the Maintenance Control group is responsible for all deferred maintenance activity, scheduling short-term preventative maintenance, monitoring and repair of repeat maintenance activity, troubleshooting and repair of outstation aircraft, and a host of other less visible maintenance activities. The decisions made by this group don’t just affect a single aircraft but the entire fleet.”
Unlike our hangar and line mechanics, who are outside fixing aircraft in the snow, the heat, and everything in between, our Maintenance Controllers are part of Systems Operations Control (SOC) in our St. Louis headquarters building. That’s because the other departments in the SOC, including Crew Scheduling and Dispatch, rely on information from Maintenance Control to make important decisions that affect the operation. For example, if a flight is delayed due to a maintenance issue, Maintenance Control communicates the estimated back in service time to Crew Scheduling and Dispatch so that the departure can be re-scheduled and re-crewed, if necessary.
Chris started working for Trans States as a licensed A & P mechanic right out of college, and spent his first three years with the company working in the St. Louis hangar facility. He then spent two years as a mechanic on the flight line before making the move to Maintenance Control. He says that a few different factors, including pay and the opportunity to work indoors, led him to made the move to Maintenance Control.
“I thought about staying on the line, but I was ready for a change, and there was a pay increase with the Maintenance Controller position,” Chris remarked. “Plus, I get to do the same work as a mechanic in the field, but I’m away from the elements, which is nice.” Chris takes a lot of pride in his position and says that the Trans States Maintenance Control group is, “top-notch and knowledgeable, and has a real understanding of the Embraer 145 aircraft.”
Vice President of Tech Ops, Rob Truax, agrees. “Our Maintenance Control team represents some of our very best maintenance talent. You really have to be at the top of your game, professionally, to work in Maintenance Control.”
If you’re a licensed and experienced A & P mechanic and are looking for a new challenge, there’s never been a better time to explore career opportunities in Maintenance Control. In fact, Trans States is currently offering a $12,000 retention bonus to all current and new hire Maintenance Controllers. To learn more or apply online, please click here.
Congratulations! You have been hired on as a Trans States Airlines pilot! This means that your airline career will begin with a six-week training program in St. Louis, Missouri. There, you will learn everything that you need to know to succeed in the Trans States flight deck. Obtaining this knowledge will come through hard work and diligent, constant studying. While this may seem like a daunting task, it is achievable with the right level of focus and preparation. Trans States Airlines Flight Instruction Manager Paul Epperson shares his tips and advice for what to expect and how to prepare for the adjustment into 121 ground school.
Look Ahead at the Training Footprint
Many new hires have only recently met the requirements for obtaining an ATP and are coming from a flight school or college training environment. Many others come from the ranks of the military or a corporate training environment. Most of these programs are built on a stage check, or stairstep approach to training. Since this is the only training many pilots know, they tend to apply the rules of their previous experiences to the airline world. Most of these programs use what I refer to as a “compartmentalized approach.” In essence, the pilot focuses on what’s directly in front of him to succeed. If you apply these same principals to the 121 world, you may find yourself behind the power curve by the time you near your scheduled simulator sessions. This is not where you want to be. To avoid this, you have to plan ahead by looking at your training footprint.
What to Talk About Before You Leave Home
Oftentimes, ground school is compared to “drinking from a fire hose” or taking a couple of college courses that were designed to last a semester in just six weeks. At last count, our company manuals comprise more than 1,600 pages. This is why it’s extremely important to sit down with your loved ones and explain that you will be completely immersed in the training environment for the next three months. Explain to them that this is likely to be the most intense three months you have ever had. Try to impress upon them that if they are demanding of your attention during this time, that you very likely may fail. In short, get your house in order before you leave for class.
“But what about weekends? You’re free weekends aren’t you?” You’re going to hear this phrase or something similar to it. I encourage students to go home a couple of times during training to reconnect with their lives. I also tell them that unless they have an IQ of 180, they will likely struggle if they go home every weekend. Weekends should be used to catch up on material that you’re behind on and to solidify the information that you have been attempting to digest. Make every attempt to gain the understanding of your loved ones before you leave home.
An Investment in Your Future
Your first 121 ground school, your first check ride and your first recurrent training event are going to dictate how you feel about returning to the training center for the rest of your career. Thirty-five to forty years is a long time to fear the training center—you don’t want to get a sick feeling in your gut every time you hear the words “oral”, “recurrent” or “check ride.” I explain to students that if they do what I ask of them (and I ask a lot), they will form a foundation on which to build the rest of their careers. And, if they go all in now,everything for the rest of their careers will be easier. By completely committing themselves, they will leave ground school with a comprehensive understanding of the airline environment, as well as the principles of complex aircraft systems. What this means is the next time they go to class—wherever it may be—it will simply be a variation of the same things that I taught them. And I want to be very clear about what I believe “all in” entails:
Get up at 6:30 AM to be in class by 8:00 AM. Stay focused for nine hours with a break for lunch. We finish at 5:00 PM.
Go back to the hotel and take a run (or whatever you need to do to clear your mind), get something to eat, call whomever you need to, and meet with your study group.
Spend 30 minutes to two hours with your study group each evening, depending on the material. Leave the group and study individually until you go to bed.
Repeat this every day for three months until you get to the line.
Approximately two months after completion of Initial Training, begin preparing for your first recurrent training.
Work Ethic and the Team
One important aspect that often is not reinforced properly is the need to work as a team. If you isolate yourself from your classmates, you will end up like the lone gazelle and soon will perish. I find hat the earlier a class bonds as a team, the more successful they are as a whole. You are going to have to trust and rely on one another to succeed. I tell students, “They don’t know what they don’t know,” hence the importance of getting together and quizzing one another. You will also need to find one individual who shares your work ethic to pair up with as a simulator partner. You are going to spend A LOT of time together, and you are going to be under considerable stress, so it’s important to choose wisely.
What to Expect Once You Arrive
The timeline for Trans States Airlines’ initial ground training is about seven weeks. This includes days off. (All subsequent references to time in this article refer to work days.)
I mentioned that most new hires don’t know what to expect. It’s difficult to prepare for something when you don’t know what is coming and I don’t want the class being reactive, so I take the time to lay out the entire training footprint on day one. I am going to do the same for you now.
Most 121 ground schools consist of several parts. Typically, the first part is administrative in nature and consists of a day or two of fingerprints, drug tests, photos for IDs, travel and insurance benefits, tax forms, etc.
The second part is Company Indoctrination (referred to as “Indoc”). The time frame in our case is six to seven days. There are two open book tests and a one hundred question final. Once Indoc starts, the training can begin in earnest. Indoc is the most boring thing in the airline business! It doesn’t matter what airline you’re with, Indoc is brutal. It consists of things like the rules and regulations of the airline, hazardous materials and security, etc. Boring as it is, you have to know the rules.
It’s important to note that during training you will be taking on over 1,600 pages of material. The fact is, most people aren’t going to be able to study 1,600 pages of material in the time frame of a normal ground school. I explain to students that they “need to know a little bit about a whole lot and a whole lot about a little bit.” The key is knowing where to focus your studies. The instructor can make a world of difference here. I’m not implying that airline pilots are ignorant of the majority of the material—what I am saying is that you must know enough about certain things to reference them. That’s why we carry manuals (usually electronic in today’s aircraft environment). For example, there’s a company policy on delays. I have pilots memorize key points of this program since, in our case, violating it can result in a half million dollar fine. I also explain that there is no need to memorize all the elements of the policy: You’re delayed. Since you’re delayed, you have plenty of time to look up the particulars of the policy.
Crew Resource Management
One full day is devoted to Crew Resource Management (CRM), with elements of it mixed throughout all of your training. Initially developed in the late 1970s, CRM is becoming a larger part of every airline’s training plan. Its objective is to identify and overcome obstacles to good crew communication and promote teamwork in all aspects of the operation.
General Operating Systems
Following CRM is General Operating Subjects (GOS), which lasts six days. GOS includes a more comprehensive look at some of the aspects of Indoc, but the primary focus is aircraft specific. This is where things get more interesting! You will be covering aspects of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the aircraft you were hired to fly, as well as winter operations, performance, weight and balance, and much more. GOS will also cover flows, call-outs and aircraft specific procedures. Flows are designed to place the switches in the proper place without using a checklist by following a series of patterns. The checklist is then read after each flow to confirm that everything ended up in its proper place. In effect, it allows you to double check your work while being backed up by another pilot. Gaining a solid foothold on the flows is critical to your success in the simulator.
The timeline for Systems is 12 days. Typically, this is the most enjoyable part of the training process, but it’s also the most intense. Your understanding of the aircraft you fly has the potential to make a significant difference in the outcome of abnormal and emergency situations. The pilot of an airliner owes his passengers the highest degree of care. They are paying for your services, and they deserve a pilot who knows his craft. This includes, among many things, knowing your airplane like the back of your hand. Modern airliners have many complex systems that integrate with one another. It is incumbent upon you to learn as much as you can about these systems so that you may operate the machine as safely and efficiently as possible.
Systems integration training (SIT)
SIT consists of two half-day ground school sessions and three days of graphic flight simulation (GFS). The purpose of this time is to teach you how the various systems interact and how to do things like start the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), start the aircraft engines, bring the air conditioning (AC PACKS) online and many other critical functions. The GFS sessions (essentially Microsoft Flight Simulator in full-scale with touch point screens) are an invaluable training tool.
The Oral Exam
The oral can be the longest two hours of your life if you’re not properly prepared. On the other hand, if you went “all in,” this is where you will reap the rewards of your efforts. When you show up for your oral exam, the examiner will ask you things about your aircraft, as well as company policy and procedures that will be very difficult(unless you’ve been through a 121 program before.) Their expectation of knowledge is very high—one day you may be flying their loved ones! Once on the line, you will be taking hundreds of lives into your hands each and every day. This is a responsibility not to be taken lightly.
SIT for the Simulator
This version of SIT consists of two half day sessions. Its purpose is to make sure you’re ready to transition to the simulator portion of your training.
It is essential that you know your flows, call outs and profiles before you go to the simulator. Do you remember the first time your instrument instructor asked you to fly an approach and talk to ATC? Now imagine it in an aircraft that is far more complex, moving three times as fast and that’s after you slow it down to approach speed. The simulator sessions (eight periods, followed by a check ride) are usually compressed, with four sessions, a day off, four more sessions, and finally a check ride (if you’re ready).One of the biggest issues with simulator training is that if you get behind, there is little to no time to catch up, so being prepared is crucial. A typical simulator session usually consists of a two-hour briefing and four hours “in the box.” To be successful in the simulator, you and your partner need to be meeting before each of your sessions for at least two hours (preferably in the trainers) to go over your flows, call outs and procedures.
To successfully complete a 121 training program, you must define what you believe it means to be a professional aviator (if you haven’t already) and hold yourself to that standard. This encompasses everything from how you wear your uniform to your knowledge of company policy and procedures. How you study and address your peers is also part of being a professional pilot. Hold yourself to the highest possible standards! Even if no one is watching.
One of the top priorities for our flight attendants is making sure our passengers know that we value their business. One of the ways that they do this is by personally recognizing frequent flyers and their mileage status. It’s just a small gesture, but it goes a lot way toward making our passengers feel appreciated. We received the below note from a passenger who was impressed when flight attendant Gina Kabat recognized his United 1K status.
I just got home from a very busy travel schedule in August and found some time to send you an message about one of your outstanding employees. Gina Kobat was sure to recognize my 1K status with United. That acknowledgment, while small, went a long way with me. She provided first rate service and made sure that even the smallest requests were taken care of. If only all airlines had people like Gina working for them. She is an outstanding representative of your airline, and my only wish to you as that she is recognized for her hard work and her warm personality that make the life of a frequent traveler more enjoyable.
Our flight attendants are true professionals, and their commitment to the passenger experience is second to none. Gina and the entire Trans States flight attendant team work hard to give our passengers a memorable experience on each and every flight.
Rick is a retired Navy pilot who had always hoped for a commercial flying career after leaving the military. However, when a Commanding Officer role took him out of the cockpit for the last few years of his career, he assumed that flying commercially was no longer feasible. However, several years after he retired, he had a conversation with an FAA examiner, who convinced him that the commercial aviation industry would be receptive to a former military pilot who had spent some time away from the flight deck.
“I wasn’t sure, but he was right,” Rick said. “Trans States was the first airline that I reached out to, and a pilot recruiter contacted me that same day.”
As Rick found out, airlines were very receptive to his background. He applied to a number of regional airlines, including Trans States, and every single one of them offered him an interview.
Keith Stamper, the Director of Flight Operations at Trans States, wasn’t surprised that airlines were so eager to interview Rick. “When you hire a former military pilot, it’s almost guaranteed that he or she is going to have an outstanding work ethic and exceptional leadership skills,” he said. “Plus, the high quality of their previous military training makes it relatively easy for them to transition back into flying.”
While Rick may have applied to a number of airlines, Trans States stood out to him from the very beginning. In the below video, he talks about his experience transitioning from military to commercial flying, and how factors including company culture, crew base location and a competitive contract convinced him that Trans States was the best place for him to launch his new career. Rick also speaks about the high value that the military places on mentorship, and how he saw that same commitment to helping others throughout the entire Trans States organization.
Even if you’ve been away from the cockpit for a few years, being a commercial pilot is still within reach. Our recruiters will walk you through the process, start to finish. Click here to get started.
When a flight is delayed, two things are key – communicating with your passengers, and keep them comfortable. During a recent delay, Captain Jason Newell, First Officer Cecilia Ernst and Flight Attendant Ayana Spann did just that, providing constant updates from the cockpit and textbook-perfect service in the cabin. Here’s what one of our passengers had to say about her experience:
I just wanted to give a shout out to Trans States Airlines Flight Attendant Ayana Spann. Captain Jason Newell and First Officer Cecilia Ernst. They were amazing!
When we got on the plane, Captain Newell announced that we were going to be delayed due to a paperwork issue, but both he and First Officer Cecilia Ernst did a wonderful job keeping everyone updated. Ayana had the biggest smile, a very positive attitude, and did whatever she needed to do to keep the passengers happy.
When Captain Newell came back over the PA, he announced that the pilots had received the paperwork, but we were 1,200 lbs over in fuel and that flight would be further delayed while the issue was resolved. Right away, here comes Ayana with water service and a smile, making sure that everyone was comfortable throughout the delay. She was a rock star! Ayana did a wonderful job and is truly an asset to Trans States Airlines. The pilots also deserve kudos for their part in keeping everyone updated, staying positive, keeping us safe, and getting us home.
The crew was excellent, and they all represented the airline in a very professional manner. Keep up the good work!
Our crews are true professionals who are committed to providing outstanding customer service – even when things aren’t going as smoothly as we would like!