Aviators Interns Tour Trans States Headquarters, Meet Company Leaders

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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.

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Current Aviators interns pose for a group shot during their recent trip to St. Louis.

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.”

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Chief Operating Officer Fred Oxley chats with Aviators interns during a recent visit.

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.”

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Aviators interns tour our maintenance hangar and get an up close look at our Embraer 145 aircraft

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.

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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Honoring Captain Tim Gerrels

Trans States Airlines has a long and storied history, all thanks to our great family of airline professionals. Captain Tim Gerrels recently completed his final flight before reaching his retirement, after flying with Trans States for over three decades! During that time, Captain Gerrels has racked up quite a few flight hours, along with impressive knowledge. In fact, Tim was the #1 pilot on the seniority list at Trans States Airlines for seventeen years.

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Trans States Airlines Captain Tim Gerrels poses with his First Officer after his final flight.

According to Tim, he didn’t originally consider flying as a career. Tim received a degree in forestry from the University of Minnesota, through their Agricultural Aviation program. “There weren’t really any jobs available right after I got out of school,” he explains, “But, after I finished school, I continued flying.”

 

After completing school, Tim began flying in Greely, CO and then Tulsa, OK, then became an instructor in Minnesota. Afterwards, Tim became a Fixed Based Operator in Vernal, UT, where he did charter work with oil companies and the Bureau of Land Management. Later on, he taught at Saint Louis University’s Parks College, before eventually landing a job flying Cessna 402 aircraft out of Jefferson City, MO for a company called TRANS-MO Airlines.

In March of 1984, Tim was offered a position flying for Trans States Airlines, where he spent more than three decades. “I originally intended to stay only three to five years,” Tim elaborates, “but I was having too much fun flying to leave.” Tim began flying ATR aircraft in 1990, and the Embraer 145 in 2000. His favorite plane to fly was the Metroliner.

Tim’s favorite part of his job has always been flying into small towns, “I was never a big city boy. I don’t like flying into big cities. When I first started flying with Trans States, St. Louis was the biggest town that we would fly into, and that was just fine by me.” Tim has also seen a change in his St. Louis domicile, “St. Louis used to be a lot busier, and that’s no longer the case. We don’t have those two to three-hour delays that we used to have when Lambert Airport was a hub for Trans World Airlines.”

With experience comes wisdom, and Tim has some advice for the next generation of pilots. Tim emphasized the importance of a pilot doing his or her research before they go on their first check ride. “Always make sure that you do everything that you have to do, and get that down early. This way, you can make sure that you avoid any problems in the future.”

Tim says that landing his final flight with Trans States Airlines on June 10, 2016 was the best day of his life. “I don’t consider my best moments to be ‘proud’ moments,” Tim admits, “because I’m just not that kind of a guy. But I felt so appreciated when I came into the terminal, and there were people waiting to thank and congratulate me. I felt that I always got along with management, because it was always important to me to simply do my job, and make sure that it got done right. So, it was great to see that that made an impact.”

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Captain Tim Gerrels’ final flight receiving a ceremonial water cannon salute.

Tim plans on spending his retirement continuing to work on his farm, and spending time with his family. He will also be doing some traveling, as well. “We’ll be going to Hawaii next February,” he added, “and, we will renting a guide service to do some lake trout fishing in Lake Superior.” Tim revealed that he’s looking forward to this fishing trip again, after enjoying it the first time.

But if you think that Tim will no longer be flying during his retirement, think again. Tim also said that he will continue flying in a small airplane, in order to help his friends monitor their crops. “Now, he best part is,” Tim continued, “I only have to fly on my terms. Which means, only when the weather is nice.” Tim admits that it has already been an adjustment not having to check the weather when he wakes up every morning. “Sometimes I catch myself doing it, but then I remember that if I don’t like the forecast, then I don’t have to fly.”

Trans States Airlines is so honored and thankful to have had Captain Tim Gerrels fly for us for the past thirty plus years! Thank you so much for all you’ve done, Captain Gerrels! Enjoy your retirement!

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!