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Tech partners with ExpressJet

October 1, 2015
Jeremy Walkenford (left), a junior professional aviation major, shakes hands with one of the crew members of United Express. – Photos by Avery Bryan

Jeremy Walkenford (left), a junior professional aviation major, shakes hands with one of the crew members of United Express. – Photos by Avery Bryan

REBEKAH BARNES
STAFF REPORTER | reb033@ latech.edu

The Embraer 145 jet touched down at the Ruston Regional Airport, where Louisiana Tech’s aviation students toured the jet inside and out, and mentors from ExpressJet Airlines gave inside advice on the future of their education.

The university signed a partnership with ExpressJet on Sept. 24, which will provide aviation students mentorships with ExpressJet pilots and set them on the path to careers in the cockpit. But first, aviation’s new partners wanted to show these future pilots tangible proof ExpressJet is serious about their future careers.

Jordon Bullock, first officer of ExpressJet, co-piloted the jet from Dallas to Ruston.

“It’s important that we brought the plane today so they can see the goal and keep their eye on the prize,” Bullock said.

Aviation majors balance general education with flight courses, which Bullock said can be tough to manage. But he encourages students to persevere.

“I love it,” he said. “Every day I step into the cockpit, it’s like the first day all over again.”

Peter Ryan, first officer and pilot recruiter, said the Airline Pilot Pathway program is about mentorship and career placement.

“We want to guide students into a career that serves the person going into it,” Ryan said.

He said each student in the program would have a current ExpressJet pilot to answer questions and walk them through the process from education to a career.

Tech is home to such a program because its pilots’ professionalism has impressed Ryan.

“I hired four Louisiana Tech graduates last month and I came back and said, ‘Give me more’”, he said.

Jessica Lowery, Tech alumna and first officer, has worked in Cleveland, Newark and now Dallas through ExpressJet.

“When I was trying to fill the gap between graduation and what regional airline I wanted to go to, I really didn’t have anyone to talk to about the best way to go,” Lowery said.

Jessica Lowery, an alumna on the Tech aviation program, speaks with students at the Ruston Regional Airport.

Jessica Lowery, an alumna on the Tech aviation program, speaks with students at the Ruston Regional Airport.

She said now her goal as a mentor is to let students know what careers ExpressJet has to offer, promote safety, perseverance and professionalism. As a commercial pilot, Lowery said professionalism goes hand-in-hand with customer service.

“The other day we had this dad bring a 3-year-old boy into the cockpit to take pictures,” she said. “Professionalism leaves a lasting impression, so it becomes more than just a flight.”

When freshman Karly Franklin decided she wanted to be a pilot, she had never been in a plane. Now, she has logged 20 hours of flight as a professional aviation major. Franklin said she is still figuring out what direction she will take when she is a certified pilot, but with help from a mentor she can figure it out.

“It’s really comforting to know there’s something out there after graduation,” she said.

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