WMU News

Mesaba inks new deal with College of Aviation

April 15, 2002

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. -- Northwest Airlink's Mesaba Airlines has expanded its relationship with Western Michigan University's College of Aviation, signing a new agreement with the college that will put even more WMU graduates on the fast track to employment as Mesaba flight officers.

A Mesaba official traveled to WMU's flight facilities in Battle Creek, Mich., Friday, April 12, to sign a new agreement that will allow WMU graduates to fulfill the airline's multiengine flight time requirement for pilot candidates by completing the University's Jet Orientation Course. That intense four-week course, which is conducted on the college's Boeing 737-type flight-training device, has been offered at WMU for the past 18 months and already has been completed by a number of WMU domestic flight students and cadet pilots being trained at the University for British Airways and Emirates Airlines.

Joe Restifo, director of flight operations for Mesaba, came to Battle Creek for the signing and to speak at the National Intercollegiate Flight Association's Region III competition being held at WMU April 9-13. The new Mesaba agreement was originally scheduled for signing on Sept. 11, 2001. Restifo and a Mesaba colleague were flying to WMU when terrorist attacks halted all U.S. flights. The agreement was subsequently postponed due to an industrywide slowdown.

"This is a tremendous validation of the quality of the training taking place at WMU," says Gregory A. Lyman, dean of the College of Aviation. "It's been a difficult few months for the industry, but Mesaba is looking at the public's return to regular flying and the airline's future needs for strong pilot candidates. They have indicated great appreciation for the caliber of WMU graduates who already have been hired, and now, after reviewing our Jet Orientation Course, Mesaba officials have told us it provides the level of flight experience they are seeking for future hiring."

To have an inside track in hiring the highest caliber pilots available, Mesaba became the college's first domestic airline partner nearly three years ago when it launched a "bridge training and hiring program." It has hired more than 30 WMU alumni since the first agreement was signed in August 1999, and airline officials have made repeated trips to the college to interview and test WMU-trained pilot prospects. Under the earlier agreement, Mesaba streamlined its hiring requirements for those who had completed aviation training at WMU, significantly modifying the flying time requirements for those candidates.

The new agreement further modifies requirements that must be met by candidates by allowing the jet orientation course to take the place of a 100-hour multiengine flight time requirement that was part of the previous agreement. Candidates must still fulfill the streamlined overall flight hours required of WMU graduates by the hiring program, but will now have the option of either taking the jet orientation course or completing 100 hours of actual air time on a multiengine plane.

"Mesaba recognizes the overall experience and training that pilots are able to receive through

Western Michigan University," says Restifo. "We're offering our support by guaranteeing a job interview for all who successfully complete WMU's aviation flight science program and satisfy our criteria. Upon successful completion of the interview process, WMU graduates will be offered conditional employment opportunities."

The jet orientation course at WMU was made possible by the acquisition in 2000 of the 737-type flight-training device built by Frasca International of Urbana, Ill. Funding for the trainer came from a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek and by funding from the Battle Creek Tax Increment Finance Authority as well as from University funds. The training is offered as a capstone course to students in WMU's undergraduate flight curriculum and to cadets in the college's International Pilot Training Centre. Those cadets include students sponsored by overseas airlines, self-sponsored students and cadets being trained at WMU through a scholarship program sponsored by Delta Air Lines.

The training device is designed to replicate the motion of a 737-400 aircraft and operates with six-axis motion. It can create the illusion of acceleration and deceleration as well as such conditions as wind shear, providing a full range of motion to accompany visual cues. Acquisition of the simulator put WMU among a select few schools in the nation equipped to prepare flight students to operate aircraft such as the Boeing 737.

Founded in 1944, Mesaba offers more than 900 daily departures from 101 cities in 26 states and three Canadian provinces. The Minneapolis-based air carrier entered into an agreement in 1984 with Northwest Airlines to serve as Northwest's primary regional affiliate under the Northwest Airline banner. In 1998, Mesaba was named Regional Airliner of the Year by Air Transport World magazine.

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

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