Regional airline recruits Ohio University student aviators at Parent’s Weekend event

Yasmeen Ebada, Anna Hartenbach, and Colleen Carow | Oct 1, 2018

Students and parents listen to a presentation

The Russ College Department of Aviation hosted an afternoon of food and fun Saturday as part of Ohio University Parent’s Weekend festivities – and a regional airline shared details about its new partnership with the OHIO flight program.

Representatives from Students and their parents joined department faculty and staff, and CommutAir, a United Express regional partner, joined students, parents, faculty and staff for a picnic, games and special presentation at the Gordon K. Bush OHIO University Airport. The CommutAir partnership offers OHIO student pilots a direct path to first officer positions.

Aviation Business Administrator Steve Owens, who noted that the department, along with the college, welcomed its largest freshman class this year, said the picnic gives students and their parents the opportunity to meet members of the department and CommutAir representatives, and fostered family conversations about the program’s benefits so they can make an informed decision.

“I want the program to be family-oriented,” Owens said. “It’s beneficial for them and us because it allows them to stay here and do flight training for incoming students,” he said.. “We want the program to be self-sustaining — so we’ll always have students that are good quality pilots, instructing the new students.”

Select OHIO student pilots with four or more semesters in aviation can earn up to $22,100 in tuition reimbursement toward a certified flight instructor (CFI) rating, hands-on experience, training resources, pilot mentors, and sessions with pilots and executives. Student participants fly for CommutAir, and eventually United Airlines, via CommutAir’s United Career Path Program. Upon successful completion of that program, they receive a first officer training class date with CommutAir.

Interim Chair of the Department of Aviation Deb McAvoy, who is also associate dean for academics, said the program offers a great pathway for students to transition directly from college to a long-term career as a United Airlines captain.

“The students can focus on their academics and their flying hours without having to worry about what comes next,” she said. “They get the opportunity to work with a great regional airline — and a major airline shortly thereafter.”

Students have a 2,000 hour investment in the program: 1,000 hours of flight operations (FO) time to achieve captain status, and another 1,000 to work for United Airlines.

Joseph Bommarito, United Airlines first officer of flight operations, said program ensures that students gain the necessary experience to become qualified instructors and, eventually, captains.

“Regional companies like CommutAir are stepping stones, and United Airlines is one of the biggest airlines in the world,” he said. “It’s a sure sight to get to your future goal of becoming an airline pilot.”

Senior aviation flight student Rebecca Sedlak, who just became a CFI, said her experience has helped her gain more confidence in teaching freshmen.

“I have some students who have never touched a plane before, so it’s exciting to see their faces light up, and it takes me back to when I was a student,” she said. “I get text messages from my students saying how excited they are about learning to fly.”