Published by Tom Thinnes on Tue, Jan 31, 2017
I have read with interest stories of WMU students from the College of Aviation and their movement through their career. Most seem to be those who graduated with a degree and became professional pilots. I thought that my story might show that there are other paths available with a degree from WMU College of Aviation.
Like many, I started out with the goal of being an Air Force pilot. After graduating in 1962 with a degree in Air Transportation and trying numerous times, I was never able to pass the pilot eye exam and entered the Air Force as a transportation officer. During seven years of service, I was involved in many transportation activities: beginning with shipping household goods, to being a transportation squadron commander, to running a motor pool and maintenance shop in Korea and finally commanding a detachment involved in training aircrews in aerial delivery of supplies and equipment from C-130 aircraft. I am sure that my degree in Air Transportation from Western Michigan University had a lot to do with giving me a chance to be involved in these activities.
After the Air Force, I joined Delta Air Lines. My first job was in a department involved in the design and development of Delta facilities and terminal buildings. Since I had no experience in that area, I am sure that my WMU classes and leadership experience in the Air Force played a big part in getting the job. During this time, several new terminals were being developed and I had the opportunity to play a leadership role in an airline committee that designed and developed a major terminal expansion at the Cincinnati, Ohio airport. This included working with architects and contractors as well as airline operation departments, finance departments and ramp management.
Four years of this gave me the experience to move to a new department called properties. It is the responsibility of the properties department to be the Delta contact at airports the company services. This includes negotiating with the airport operator regarding charges for the airline use of the airport. In addition, we addressed operational issues, insured adequate operating facilities were available and that the airline was represented in issues regarding local political concerns.
During this time, I continued my interest in flying and obtained commercial and instrument ratings. Although I continued to fly, I did not actively seek employment due to economic reality and the fact that my job was very interesting and challenging.
After 25 years with Delta, I decided to move into the consulting field. At that time, I became a consultant for the airlines that served Miami International Airport and acted as their representative for ten years. In that role, I assisted in rates and charge negotiations, maintained the relationship between the airport and its customer airlines and interacted with the Miami Dade political structure. I retired completely in 2004
My reason for briefly relating my career is to assist WMU Aviation students and other students interested in aviation that there are other career paths available beyond the pilot option. I did not realize this while in school.