Did you know that only 5% of all pilots are women, and less than 2% of aircraft mechanics are women? Women In Aviation International (WAI) aims to change that. WAI is a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of women in aviation career fields. One of the organization’s top priorities is encouraging young women to consider aviation as a career.
Traditionally a male-dominated field, aviation is a career path that women often don’t consider unless they’ve been previously exposed to it, such as having a parent who is a pilot. Since so few girls are exposed to aviation as a potential career opportunity, they usually have a different career path in mind by the time they reach their late teens. “Aviation tends to be family-oriented,” explains Laura O’Brien, President of the St. Louis Chapter of WAI. “The culture is usually something that you’re brought into in some way. Very few people stumble onto it themselves, and we want to help change that.”
One of the ways that WAI aims to narrow the gender gap in aviation is by exposing girls to career opportunities in the field at a young age. WAI’s annual Girls In Aviation Day provides girls ages 11-16 opportunities to learn about aviation-related careers through hands-on activities and demonstrations from aviation professionals. Over 74 WAI chapters around the world hosted local Girls in Aviation events this year, drawing over 9,700 attendees.
At this year’s event in St. Louis, over 100 local girls learned about aviation career opportunities with over 20 organizations, including Boeing, the Air Force, and Trans States. One of the event’s most inspiring guests was 13-year-old student pilot, Olivia Fabisoff.
Private aircraft company JetLinx graciously allowed their ramp to be used for static aircraft displays, allowing the participants the opportunity to see private jets and Medevac helicopters up close.
Trans States hosted a luncheon for participants at our corporate headquarters in St. Louis, where pilots and flight attendants were on hand to talk about what their jobs are like and how they got to where they are today.
Be sure to save the date for next year’s Girls in Aviation Day on October 13, 2018! Click here to find out how you can get involved.
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.
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.
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.”