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June 30, 2009

American Airlines and American Eagle Give A Big Lift to At-Risk Students

By J Carpenter
Airport Journals

 

American Airlines & American Eagle pilots line in front of their Embraer 145

American Airlines and American Eagle pilots line in front of their Embraer 145

On Saturday June 20, 2009, American Airlines and American Eagle hosted a seminar that presented the opportunities available in aviation for at-risk kids in the Dallas and Tarrant County school systems. The venue was the Dallas Executive Airport (KRBD). 102 kids ranging from 13-18 years of age flooded the terminal building and surrounding tarmac to see and meet minority pilots, flight attendants and mechanics employed by the two airlines.


The weather was sunny and warm as the crowd of kids was introduced to piloting and aircraft maintenance personnel who represented possible future careers. Without this exposure, these economically disadvantaged youths would probably never have the opportunity to experience the potential for employment in the airline industry. American Airlines also sponsors a flight school at no cost to those who cannot afford it.

The CRP Future Pilot Flight School began operations in 2008 and has 17 students today, 10 who are in the aircraft maintenance curriculum and seven are learning piloting. These student pilots are now flying aircraft. The program for the 2009-2010 school-year is 140 students. CRP was adopted by American’s African-American Employee Resource Group and soon caught the attention of American Airlines.

The students receive training necessary to obtain licenses required to provide aircraft maintenance services or to fly airplanes. They spend four years taking courses based in avionics, mathematics and science which are the foundation for a career in aviation.

One of the sponsor representatives is David Campbell, senior vice president of Technical Operations and Chief Operating Officer for American Eagle. Campbell states that during the next 10 years, aviation pilots and aircraft mechanics will continue to be in great demand. “This program will provide minority children incredible address to rewarding careers. I look forward to one day having the honor of inviting these you8ng men and women to begin careers with American Airlines and American Eagle.”

Campbell along with American Airlines Chief Pilot Mark Hettermann help with fundraising plus obtaining donated equipment and supplies to make sure that the school is supported with all possible resources. Pilots and aircraft mechanics serve as instructors, counsel and mentors for the school. Communication staff also assists with publicity necessary for fundraising.

Another dignitary present was retired Captain Dave Harris, the first African-American pilot to fly for a commercial airline. Harris began his career at American Airlines on December 3, 1964. Later, Harris trained other pilots to fly the Boeing 727 and the MD-11. Prior to working for American Airlines, Harris served as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force from 1958 until 1964. He flew B-47s and B-52s while stationed at the Plattsburg Air Force Base and the Westover Joint Air Reserve Base.

 
American Airlines and American Eagle pilots and crew greet the attending at-risk kids.
 
Attending the event are (L-R) Britney Wright, Account Sales Representative, American Airlines; Amiee Cardella, Account Executive with Weber Shandwick; Dr. Calvin and Gwenelle Span.  Dr. Spann is a decorated WWII fighter pilot and member of the famous Tuskegee Airmen.
 
Over 200 kids, dignitaries, sponsors and media gather outside the Dallas Executive Airport terminal building awaiting the arrival of entertainer and host Steve Harvey.
 
Entertainer, comedian and radio talk show host Steve Harvey addresses the kids.
 
American Eagle Rollout
   

Harris retired from American Airlines on December 1, 1994 after 30 years of service. A native of Columbus, Ohio, Harris flies his Socata TB-20 Trinidad GT airplane between his homes in Trenton, South Carolina and Nokomis, Florida.

Students were able to converse with representatives from the U.S. Marine Corp., the U.S. Navy ROTC and members of law enforcement who had set up information tables inside the terminal building. In addition, there was a special table set up by Dr. Calvin J. Spann and his wife Gwenelle. Dr. Spann was a WWII combat fighter pilot of the 332 Fighter Group, 100 Fighter Squadron, better known as the famous Tuskegee Airmen. This special group of fighter pilots flew, with distinction, aircraft such as the North American Aviation P-51 “Mustang” during the campaign in North Africa and Europe. Spann is the president of the Calvin J. Spann Foundation. FMI, visit www.calvinjspannfoundation.org.

In February 2008, Major Alejandro “Brick” House established the CRP Future Pilots Flight School, dedicated to educating disadvantaged youth between eight and 18 years of age in the Dallas and Ft. Worth areas. House is the school’s Chief Operations Officer. The flight school emphasizes studies in aviation maintenance, piloting principles, math and science. House helped secure sponsorships including the annual 2008 Aviation Youth Summit and obtained strategic support from American Airlines.

“American Airlines has played an integral part in sustaining the CRP Future Pilots Flight School,” House said. “We believe that our school is a perfect match for American Airlines’ volunteer efforts because we will ultimately provide them with a home-based feeder program of diverse future employees.”

Prior to his role at the Flight School, House served 17 years in the U.S. Marine Corp. where he was an advanced flight instructor in the T-4 Goshawk at NAS Kingsville, Texas, where he held the billet as Lead Diversity Officer for the U.S. Navy Aviation Recruitment team. House also developed a military-mentor tutoring program at a local junior high school. He currently serves as the Logistics Officer with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 41 in NAS Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base. House holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Southern California. He resides in Keller, Texas with his wife, Kasey and their five children.

Standing on an aircraft stair ramp, Major House welcomed the guests, dignitaries, and students with opening remarks. He gave an overview of the goals of the CRP Flight School.

House then introduced entertainer, comedian and radio host Steve Harvey. Harvey is probably best known as the star of the Warner Brothers sitcom The Steve Harvey Show, and was one of the four comedians featured in the Spike Lee film The Original Kings of Comedy. Harvey brought the celebrity factor to the program and emphasized to the kids the importance of planning and goal setting. “Anything is possible if you have the will and discipline in your heart,” said Harvey. He and all the speakers had the complete attention of all their audience. The kids were very well behaved and all seemed genuinely happy to be at this seminar.

Also speaking to the group was Dallas city councilman Tennell Atkins, American Airline’s COO David Campbell, American Airlines Chief Pilot Mark Hettermann and Sonja Whitemon who later introduced the pilots of American Airlines.

The relative quiet of the airport was shattered when an American Eagle jet made a high speed low pass along Runway 17 directly in front of the terminal building. The crowd yelled and applauded as the jet made a steep turn to the left, circled the field and returned to land. More cheers came from the crowd as the Embraer ERJ – 145 taxied to a stop in front of the terminal building. After shutdown of the engines approximately 20 African-American pilots and staff from American Eagle jet filed out and stood beside their aircraft.

The kids were then invited to meet each of the pilots and staff. The pilots patiently shook everyone’s hand and greeted each student with a warm smile. Appreciation was expressed on each student’s face for this demonstration of individual attention.

The kids were divided into Red and Blue groups. Each group was served lunch and then viewed a 6 minute video clip about American Airlines' aviation history. Afterwards, they participated in 20 minute question and answer session where they interacted with past and present American Airlines pilots and mechanics, Tuskegee Airmen, and U.S. military personnel.

The future aeronauts also visited the CRP Future Pilot Flight School where they sat in on an instructional flight briefing with Michael Johnson, Director of Operations for the CRP Future Pilot Flight School. The kids then observed a pre-flight check in on an actual plane and viewed a CRP student and instructor taxi and take off in a plane. Finally, the youngsters were able to participate in a taxi demonstration on the American Eagle Embraer regional jet.

The entire event was a success. The sponsors, guest celebrities and attending kids all had a great time. This reporter overheard many conversations between the students about how they planned to make a career in aviation. There was a special bond created between the kids and their mentors. The return on the sponsors’ investment in time and dedication should prove profitable when these future aeronauts bloom to fruition.

For more information about the CRP Flight School and African American Pilots at American Airlines, contact Sonja Whitemon, Director of Corporate Communications at Corp.comm@aa.com or by calling 817-967-1577.

Headquartered in Ft. Worth, Texas, American Airlines is the world’s largest airline with 4000 flights serving 260 cities in over 40 countries. American Airlines, Inc. and American Eagle, Inc. are subsidiaries of AMR Corporation. FMI visit www.AA.com. The publicly held corporation is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol AMR.

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