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Pinnacle puts WMU aviation grads on fast track

March 14, 2011

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KALAMAZOO--Graduates of Western Michigan University's flight science program will enjoy the benefits of having the inside track to jobs with three regional airlines, thanks to a new agreement signed this month by Pinnacle Airlines Corp. and WMU's College of Aviation.

The college and airline inked an agreement that will launch a Professional Pilot Direct Hire Program that will put WMU grads among the first in line for pilot positions without having to go through the traditional recruiting and interview process. The agreement, effective immediately, will mean that WMU flight alumni who meet the company requirements will be placed on a list of approved new-hire candidates for first officer positions that open up with Pinnacle, Mesaba Airlines and Colgan Air Inc.

"This program is possible because Pinnacle believes the qualities of the individuals who successfully complete the University's flight science degree program meet or exceed all standards with which we measure pilot qualifications and professionalism," says Philip Trenary, president and chief executive officer of Pinnacle Airlines Corp. The agreement is only the second such direct-hire program in the nation the airline has entered into.

To qualify, students must have earned their bachelor's degree in aviation flight science from WMU with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. They also must have an FAA-issued Multiengine Land Commercial Pilot License or an FAA-issued Multiengine Land Airline Transport Pilot License. The training for those licenses must have been done at WMU. In addition, Pinnacle requires candidates to meet a number of background and safety checks and to have completed the minimum number of hours--250--required by the FAA to be employed as an air carrier first officer.

"I'm so pleased for our pilots," says Capt. Dave Powell, dean of WMU's aviation college. "This is a real tribute to the caliber of the graduates we produce. Our grads and students are already showing a great deal of interest in this program."

Powell says the agreement can significantly reduce the number of post-license flying that most commercial pilots have to accrue before they are hired as commercial first officers. Most significant, he says, is the fact that WMU students can earn their multiengine licenses in fewer than 43 flight hours. Pinnacle's assessment of the quality of that training means students do not have to accrue additional multiengine hours before they are eligible for first officer seats.

"Pinnacle is telling us they consider our grads among the best pilot prospects in the industry," Powell says. "Being a successful WMU flight alum is the quality indicator they are looking for as they build their future work force."

Pinnacle Airlines began operations in 1985 as Republic Express with service to three small communities in the South from its Memphis, Tenn., hub. Today, it flies more than 740 Delta Connection flights daily to 120 airports across the United States and Canada. The company employs more than 7,700 people operating Pinnacle, Colgan and Mesaba Airlines.

Colgan is a regional airline also headquartered in Memphis. Colgan Air operates as Continental Connection, United Express and US Airways Express. Launched in 1991, Colgan offers more than 350 daily flights to 53 cities in 15 states and Canada.

Mesaba operates as a Delta Connection carrier under service agreements with Delta. The rapidly expanding airline serves more than 110 cities in the United States and Canada from Delta's hubs in Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Memphis, Atlanta, and Salt Lake City.

The WMU College of Aviation boasts enrollment of nearly 700 students in three programs: Aviation Maintenance Technology, Aviation Science and Administration, and Aviation Flight Science. The college's mission is to prepare leaders who are sought after by the aerospace industry and to engage in meaningful research that advances the knowledge base. Founded in 1939, the college has operated since 1997 from the W.K. Kellogg Airfield in Battle Creek.

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Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

WMU News
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Western Michigan University
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