WMU News

Delta and WMU announce scholarship recipients

June 6, 2001

ATLANTA -- One is a senior account executive for a regional phone company. Another is a music teacher in a small Midwest city and yet another is a biostatistician from Alaska. What these eight young adults all have in common is a unique aptitude for flight training and a scholarship from Delta Air Lines that could land them in the co-pilot's seat of a commercial aircraft some 18 months from now.

Eight prospective pilots from around the nation were named today as the first recipients of scholarships designed to put increasing numbers of women and minorities in the cockpits of the nation's commercial aircraft. They will be the first to enjoy flight training through an agreement announced earlier this year between Delta Air Lines and Western Michigan University.

The first scholarship class will begin training on WMU's College of Aviation campus in Battle Creek, Mich., later this month. Six of the eight members of the group were in Atlanta today as guests of Delta to attend an awards ceremony, meet with airline executives and tour Delta's Operations Center and flight simulator facilities. WMU officials and representatives of Battle Creek's Kellogg Co. and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and a city of Battle Creek economic development official were also in attendance. All three groups are major partners in WMU's aviation initiatives. In addition, representatives of the Organization of Black Airline Pilots, a group instrumental in developing the new program, were present.

With $1.65 million in support from Delta over a four-year period, WMU's College of Aviation will train a minimum of 24 women and minority pilots who, once training is completed, will be given priority employment consideration by Delta Connection carriers.

The students who will begin training this month are highly qualified graduate students. The Delta/WMU partnership also will include specially selected undergraduates pursuing bachelor's degrees at WMU. All will be trained using WMU's "ab initio," or "from the beginning," flight training curriculum.

Members of the June group of trainees are:

Rachel Bemis, a music teacher from Kalamazoo;

Heather Burke, a Delta flight simulator engineer based in Atlanta;

Mareca Fischer, a Delta customer service agent from Midwest City, Okla.;

Deborah Goates of Jackson, Mich., a corporate controller for Pilot Industries Inc.;

Cecil Hannibal, a senior account executive with SouthWestern Bell/SBC Telecom in Atlanta;

Charles Rowe, a senior analyst with Continental Airlines in Houston;

Kristen Schultz, a biostatistician and senior programmer with AETNA Pharmacy Management from Eagle River, Alaska; and

Stanley Spalding of Columbia, Md., a regional auditor for Comcast Cable Communications Inc.

The students were recruited from among more than 100 individuals who expressed an interest in the program. After screening, 25 traveled to WMU for a rigorous battery of aptitude tests and interviews, including assessments of stress tolerance, decision-making skills, hand-eye coordination and response times.

"We were delighted with the caliber of the candidates we recommended to Delta," says Dr. Richard Wright, dean of WMU's College of Aviation. "We were looking for individuals who had the unique qualities needed to be a commercial pilot, who could handle the intensity of our 60-week course and who could work well on a team. We're confident that these candidates meet those requirements and will be extremely successful in their training."

Once trained, the students' successful integration into the ranks of commercial pilots will help address an industry-wide lack of female and minority representation in the cockpit. Minorities now account for just one percent of pilots and flight engineers. Slightly more than five percent are women.

"This investment in quality pilot education will ensure that we are able to continue to build a superior Delta team and will establish Delta as a leader in the hiring of women and minority pilots for many years to come," says Malcolm B. "Mac" Armstrong, Delta's executive vice president of operations. "We're excited and pleased to launch this initiative with such an outstanding group of young people."

Traditionally, most commercial airline pilots received their training while completing military service. As the pool of military pilots shrinks, airlines are looking for innovative ways to bring highly trained individuals into the commercial pilot ranks. WMU's ab initio curriculum is a European-style flight-training regimen that takes students with no previous flight experience through a complete program and prepares them for employment as first officers at commercial airlines. WMU began incorporating ab initio training into its undergraduate program in 1994, when it redesigned its curriculum to meet what representatives of the U.S. aviation industry said were the industry's most pressing needs. The University is the only training program in the world approved by the Federal Aviation Administration to provide such ab initio training in accordance with FAA regulations.

WMU's College of Aviation has a total enrollment of 770. The college is located at W.K. Kellogg Airport in Battle Creek, Mich., about 25 miles east of WMU's central campus in Kalamazoo. The college offers bachelor's degree programs in aviation flight science, aviation maintenance technology and aviation science and administration. The college is also home to 70 cadets sponsored by international air carriers through its International Pilot Training Centre.

Delta's goal is to become the No. 1 airline in the eyes of its customers, flying passengers and cargo from anywhere to everywhere. People choose to fly Delta more often than any other airline in the world on 5,234 flights each day to 367 cities in 64 countries on Delta, Delta Express, Delta Shuttle, Delta Connection carriers and Delta's Worldwide Partners. Delta is a founding member of SkyTeam, a global airline alliance that gives customers extensive worldwide destinations, flights and services. For more information, go to <www.delta.com>.

Media contact: WMU's Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu or Delta Air Lines Corporate Communications, 404 715-2554.

Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
616 387-8400