WMU News

Program to boost number of female, minority pilots

Jan. 9, 2001

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. -- Increasing numbers of women and minorities will be piloting the nation's commercial aircraft, thanks to a new agreement between Delta Air Lines and Western Michigan University announced Jan. 9 at the school's aviation campus.

With $1.65 million in support from Delta over a four-year period, WMU's College of Aviation will begin training 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 (ASA). 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 women 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," said Malcolm B. "Mac" Armstrong, Delta's executive vice president of operations. "We're excited and pleased to launch this relationship with WMU."

"We have a long-term commitment to expanding educational opportunities for women and minorities so they can take full advantage of employment opportunities in the aviation industry," said WMU President Elson S. Floyd. "This partnership reflects Delta's support, not only for that work, but also for the contributions our College of Aviation has made in developing ab initio pilot education."

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 (FAA) to provide such ab initio training in accordance with FAA regulations.

The first of eight graduate students recruited for the Delta program will begin their training at WMU in May 2001 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 fall 2001. 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.

WMU personnel have worked with schools throughout Michigan and in urban areas including Detroit and Philadelphia to introduce information about aviation careers. They have also worked with the Organization of Black Airline Pilots (OBAP) to recruit students to summer aviation camps and for enrollment in WMU's aviation programs. Delta and OBAP jointly sponsored Dreamflight 2000, a summer program that sent 150 aspiring aviators to Washington, D.C. aboard a chartered Delta flight. Those young students took time from their summer activities at Atlanta Public Schools, Aviation Career Enrichment Weekend Flight Academy, Civil Air Patrol and the Atlanta Aviation Career Education (ACE) Camp for the one-day field trip to the nation's Capital.

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 main 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 Air Lines, headquartered in Atlanta, aims to become the #1 airline in the eyes of its customers, flying passengers and cargo from anywhere to everywhere. Passengers already choose to fly Delta more often than any other airline in the world on 5,196 flights each day to 353 cities in 59 countries on Delta, Delta Express, Delta Shuttle, the Delta Connection carriers and Delta's

Worldwide Partners. Delta is a founding member of SkyTeam, a global airline alliance which provides customers with extensive worldwide destinations, flights and services. For more information about the airline, visit Delta at www.delta.com.

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

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