In nearly every aviation class I’ve taken since my freshman year, I’ve been told, “In this industry, it’s all about who you know”. I assumed, like most incoming students, that this statement wouldn’t apply to me until much later in my career. Who knew that your friends are just as important as your professional business contacts? What I didn’t realize at the time is that every day is a chance to network; to make a new friend, strengthen a relationship, or reach out to your professors. Back in April 2011, I landed a flight operations internship with SkyWest Airlines all because a friend wrote me a great letter of recommendation.
After hearing so much about the opportunities internships provided, I made the decision that I would apply for one during the spring of my junior year. After interviewing with American, Delta, and SkyWest, I made the decision to accept SkyWest’s offer. In May of 2011, I packed up my car and moved to Chicago, Illinois for the summer. Given the cost of apartments in the windy city, I decided to live at Northwestern University in Evanston. Albeit a 45 minute drive from O’Hare (without traffic), living at another college for a summer made my internship experience that much more enjoyable.
After two days of training in Denver, I was finally given the opportunity to meet the Chief Pilot for the ORD and IAH bases, Roy Glassey. What made interning for SkyWest such an adventure is that Mr. Glassey didn’t overload me or the other intern with work. He told us on the first day that he would have us work on a few projects for him, mostly on delay analysis and APU usage, but that the rest of the time, he wanted us to explore the airline; get a feel for what working at SkyWest would be like. Each day consisted of a few administrative tasks, but the rest was up to us. Usually, we would just chat with pilots in the crew room or explore as many of the restricted areas that our SIDA badges gave us access to. Standing under a 777 as it was being fueled or talking with controllers in one of the busiest towers in the world was indescribable. However, my favorite thing was following a flight crew around. On any given day, I would spend most of it away from O’Hare. After sitting in on the pre-brief with the Captain, First Officer, and Flight Attendant, I would help conduct a pre-flight on the CRJ, then jump in my seat and away we went. “Out and backs” as they were called, consisted of flying to an outstation, dropping passengers off, reloading, and coming right back to ORD. On the ground in the many different cities I visited, most Captains would let me sit in the left seat while they explained to me the various systems of the CRJ or would tell me about the ins and outs of flying at SkyWest. Note: pilots love to talk about themselves.
Of course, the internship wouldn’t have been the same without the travel benefits. Grabbing dinner in Winnipeg, exploring the origins of flight in Dayton, driving to the top of Pike’s Peak in Colorado Springs, or catching a Twins game in Minneapolis made every weekend a new adventure. It was as simple as looking at the route map, picking a city, and going. My internship with SkyWest culminated in a visit to company headquarters in St. George, Utah. There, I explored maintenance, dispatch, and got to sit in on a CRJ ground school for a day.
The experiences I had and people I met while working for SkyWest were beyond anything I was expecting, but what I valued the most were the connections I made. Remember, you can’t just pay for someone’s business card; you have to earn it. Over the years I’ve learned that a UND diploma and knowing the right people really opens up new doors in life. In whatever endeavor you choose, always remember there is no substitute for hard work, kindness towards others, and a great attitude. We’ll see ya up there!