WMU News

Pilot training program makes front-page news

July 5, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- The pilot training program initiated by Western Michigan University and Delta Airlines earlier this year is in the news again, this time on the front page of today's (July 5) business section in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Journal-Constitution article features two former Altanta area residents, Cecil Hannibal and Heather Burke, who are among the first eight students who entered the new training program in June.

Click on Atlanta Journal-Constitution for the online version of the article. Please note that the article may only be available online for a few days. The new Delta-WMU pilot training program for women and minorities has previously been featured in major airline industry trade magazines and in several major daily newspapers.

With $1.65 million in support from Delta Airlines over a four-year period, WMU will train a minimum of 24 and as many as 40 women and minority pilots who, once training is completed, will be given priority employment consideration by Delta Connection carriers Comair and Atlantic Southeast Airlines . The students will include highly qualified graduate students as well as specially recruited undergraduates who will be trained using WMU's "ab initio," or "from the beginning," flight training curriculum.

Their 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 1 percent of pilots and flight engineers. Slightly more than 5 percent are women.

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.

The first eight graduate students recruited for the Delta program began their training at WMU in June and will spend 14 months on campus preparing for their flight careers. In addition, four undergraduates will be recruited to begin WMU's four-year bachelor's degree program in the fall. Delta and WMU will work together to recruit and screen candidates for both levels of training.

WMU's College of Aviation has worked since the mid-1990s to substantially boost the number of women and minorities in the aviation industry. A 1995 grant and subsequent funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation was used to launch an intense effort aimed at recruiting students early in their high school careers, giving them early flight experience and providing scholarship resources for them to attend WMU. WMU's enrollment of women and minority students has more than tripled since 1997.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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