Trans States Inspires High School Students to Become the Next Generation of Aviators

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Students from McClure High School in St. Louis get a behind-the-scenes look at the work that goes on in our maintenance hangar.

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.

Jan, a former Trans States pilot turned Aviation Studies professor, suggested that Jenna encourage her students to consider aviation as a career path.  The industry is facing a severe shortage of qualified personnel, and a recent study by Boeing projects extraordinary demand for pilots, mechanics and flight attendants over the next 20 years.  Jan proposed a field trip to Trans States’ St. Louis headquarters so that Jenna’s students could see first hand all of the different aviation career opportunities that they could pursue right in their hometown.

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.

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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.”

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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.

Year in Review – Our Favorite Posts from 2016

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.

Preparing for Your First Part 121 Ground School – An Instructor’s Perspective

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.

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Trans States Provides Simulated Flight Experience for Children with Autism

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.

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Shriners Debut Aviation-Themed Parade Float, With Help of Trans States Employee

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!

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Trans States VP of Safety Marks 70th Birthday by Flying 70th Aircraft Type

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.

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Former Marine Turned Aircraft Mechanic and College Student: Meet Brandi Rector

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.

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We’ll be back in 2017 with more posts dedicated to the extraordinary individuals who call Trans States home.  Happy New Year!

 

Trans States Provides Simulated Flight Experience for Children with Autism

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.

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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.”

Thank you to American Airlines and the Autism Society of North Carolina for giving us the opportunity to participate in such a worthy event!

St. Louis Shriners Debut Aviation-Themed Parade Float, With the Help of Trans States Employee

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.

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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.

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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!

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Trans States Airlines at the Special Olympics North Carolina 2016 Plane Pull

The 2016 Plane Pull benefiting the Special Olympics of North Carolina (SONC) is a wrap, and we’re proud to have been a part of it!  On April 30, over 70 five-person teams competed against each another to physically pull one of our Embraer 145s!  As you can imagine, that’s no small feat, but these teams pulled it off – and raised over $110,00 for SONC in the process!

This year marked the 16th year for the annual Plane Pull competition, which began as a unique and fun way to raise money for Special Olympics. “Numerous Special Olympics states host a Plane Pull,” says Special Olympics North Carolina President/CEO Keith L. Fishburne, “but originally it started with 20-person teams and huge jets. In North Carolina, the format changed to 5-person teams and regional jets, since it allowed for more teams to enter be a part of this important and fun event.”

The 2016 SONC Plane Pull winners, The Bertie Enforcers, pulling a Trans States Airlines Embraer 145!
The 2016 SONC Plane Pull winners, The Bertie Enforcers, pulling a Trans States Airlines Embraer 145!

To participate, each team must raise at least $800, with the proceeds going towards providing training and Special Olympics competition opportunities for nearly 40,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities.  Thanks to generous donations from sponsors, athletes are never charged a fee to participate in any of these year-round training and competition offered by Special Olympics.

In addition to the annual festivities, the 2016 SONC Plane Pull also incorporated several new features. The event began with “opening ceremonies,” where members of the Blue Knights International Law Enforcement Motorcycle club rode in carrying the Special Olympics Flame Of Hope, as well as the United States and North Carolina flags. “Four SONC athletes also got the honor of riding on the motorcycles with the law enforcement officers,” further explains Keith L. Fishburne. “Then, an athlete delivered a short invocation, another athlete gave a short speech sharing Special Olympics’ impact on their life, and another athlete declare the Plane Pull underway.” From there, the teams hit the tarmac at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, and got “pulling!”

The competition is a race to see who can pull the airplane 25 feet in the least amount of time. All teams competed in the first round, with the top 20 advancing on to the second round. The Final Round consists of the “Fast 5” from Round 2 competing to determine the Overall Champions.  This year, the Bertie Enforcers of the Bertie County Correctional Institution upset the two-time defending champions, The Smokey Bears of the North Carolina Highway Patrol, with a final pull of 7.85 seconds.

One of the participants of the 2016 SONC Plane Pull in front of the Embraer 145, provided by Trans States Airlines.
One of the participants of the 2016 SONC Plane Pull in front of the Embraer 145, provided by Trans States Airlines.

Raleigh-Durham Chief Pilot Jonathan Jones expressed his gratitude in being a part of such a tremendous event, saying, “The Special Olympics is an amazing organization that affects the lives of so many people throughout North Carolina and the rest of the world.  We are a part of the community here and appreciate the opportunity to be involved with The Special Olympics and help over 38,000 North Carolina athletes. What a great way to spend the day, pulling planes and making a difference.”

We’re so proud to have been a part of helping a wonderful event benefiting such a wonderful organization.  We can’t wait for the 2017 SONC Plane Pull!

The Trans States SOC Gives Back with Holiday Toy Drive

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Last year the Trans States SOC got into the holiday spirit with hot chocolate, an advent calendar, a personalized stocking for each SOC employee, and more.  However, this year the SOC employees they decided that in addition to the in-office festivities, they also wanted to organize something that would allow Trans States employees to give back to the local community.

Each year the Toys for Tots program collects new, unwrapped toys during December and November, and distributes them as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the community. “When the Trans States SOC was looking for a charity to support this holiday season, Toys for Tots seemed like a great place to start,” said SOC Manager Elizabeth Bevenour.

Employees in the SOC work 7 days a week, with shifts going nearly around the clock, so SOC employees are often unable to participate in fundraisers that take place during regular office hours.  The SOC set out a toy collection box for two weeks, making it easy for employees to drop off their donations, regardless of what shift they worked.  “We collected approximately 100 toys this year, which I  think is great for our first year,” says Dispatcher Tom Wagoner, who helped Elizabeth coordinate the event.

The SOC plans to make a Toys for Tots drive an annual holiday event, and also has other plans for giving back to the local community next year, including canned food drives and more.

For more information on the Toys for Tots program, please visit http://toysfortots.org.