Delta First Officer Justin Place shares how his experience as a pilot at ExpressJet prepared him for his dream career at Delta Air Lines.

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As they say, “hindsight is 20/20,” and I am in a unique position to be able to look back and reflect on the decisions I’ve made to get to this point in my career. Joining ExpressJet (then Atlantic Southeast Airlines) in 2007 was one of the best decisions I’ve made thus far. The eight years I spent there were a significant part of a solid foundation for a long career in aviation, and the perfect segue to my career goal of working for Delta Air Lines.

ExpressJet undoubtedly gives you the tools required to be successful no matter what your career aspirations are. ExpressJet’s training department is by far one of the best kept secrets of our industry. From day one, I was impressed by the quality of instruction and the professionals providing the training. They are not there to simply meet the FAA minimum requirements but to prepare you to operate proficiently in technically advanced aircraft flying in the unique demands of both modern domestic and varying international airspace systems. They’re able to do so because of the vast wealth of knowledge and experience gained over years of flying at ExpressJet themselves. If you need additional proof, look no further than their recent certification as the first part 121 passenger-carrying airline to offer the ATP CTP course for new-hires.

However, our industry today is much more than getting from point A to point B, and ExpressJet goes well beyond simply training you on the technical skills of flying an airplane. They also focus on how to provide some of the best customer service possible, and that starts with hiring great people. By far the best part of working for ExpressJet Airlines is the people you work beside. The aviation industry is a small, close-knit group, and it’s great to see a friendly face no matter what airport you are walking through. The life-long relationships built at ExpressJet will continue to reward you in the future, both personally and professionally, as they have done so for me.

The next step in my career with Delta Air Lines is flying their Boeing 757/ 767 aircraft out of New York City, both domestically and internationally. I look forward to the new challenges as they present themselves, but I do so knowing I’m well prepared by the experiences and skills learned at ExpressJet Airlines.

Thanks for the memories,

Delta First Officer Justin Place

Dr. Kozarsky and his team

Dr. Kozarsky and his team

Dressed in surgical scrubs in a Honduran hospital room, Detroit-based Captain Carlos Enriquez watched the elderly woman open her eyes, blinking to adjust to her newfound sight.

“At first we thought the surgery failed,” Carlos said. “She was looking to the side and the doctor kept asking her to look straight at the eye chart on the wall.”

Carlos, a team of volunteers and a PBS documentary film crew watched as the 71-year-old turned to the surgeon and said, “Doctor, please give me a second. I am looking at my beautiful daughter and I have not seen her in a long time.”

“At that moment, we realized the surgery was a success. It was one of those moments that stayed with me.”

In March, Carlos volunteered for the ECHO Foundation (Eradicating Cataracts Honduras Outreach), a non-profit established in 2008 by Dr. Alan Kozarsky and Kyle Coffey. The organization’s mission is to provide cataract surgery brigades to restore sight to hundreds of poor Hondurans who otherwise would not have access to the surgery.

“Dr. Kozarsky is my air medical examiner and he’d mention ECHO from time to time. But I never gave it much thought until after my trip to Honduras for the Army.”

A U.S. Army soldier specializing in combat arms, Carlos was sent to train Honduran forces a year ago. When he returned home, he chatted with Dr. Kozarsky about the experience and ECHO came up during their conversation.

“I told him ‘next time you go, take me with you.’”

Volunteering his vacation time, Carlos flew from Atlanta to San Pedro Sula, Honduras and spent a week assisting the surgeries. The mission was also filmed for the upcoming PBS documentary, “Sight: The Story of Vision,” which educates viewers on the health and science of the eye. The film documents the history of sight, and the science, technology and medicine that allows people to see, as well as how to cure diseases of the eye and correct vision. A premiere date has not been announced yet.

Carlos’ previous trip to Honduras proved valuable to the logistics of the trip.

“I knew the Air Force base commander where we landed. We unloaded our supplies and went straight to the hospital. I don’t have any medical training so I thought that’s all I could help with. But the doctor was very good at putting people to work.”

He and the volunteers set up waiting areas for patients, organized the operating rooms and prepared medical supplies.

“It didn’t matter what your background was. Everyone did a little bit of everything, with the exception of actually performing the surgery.”

Carlos worked mostly in the OR with the doctors, helping to set up supplies for the surgical procedures. Fluent in Spanish, he also acted as an interpreter between doctors and patients.

One of the stories documented by the film crew was a 15-year-old patient who was blind in one eye and received a corneal transplant. As an interpreter, Carlos went with the film crew to pick up the teenager from his home and bring him to the hospital.

“San Pedro Sula is one of the biggest cities in Honduras for crime and gang activity, and his neighborhood was a little dangerous. Some of the volunteers were nervous but my military training kicked in to take inventory of what was going around us,” Carlos said.

The humanitarian mission tremendously improved the health and livelihoods of over a hundred patients, including a 21-year-old medical student now able to continue with her studies, the parents of a young woman, and a double amputee, diabetic patient who required full-time care.

“It was amazing to watch these surgeries change lives forever.”

According to the ECHO Foundation, there are at least 50,000 people in Honduras needlessly suffering blindness from cataracts. For most, eyesight is easily fixed with a 15-minute surgery and a $100 worth of resources.

Carlos didn’t realize the emotional impact the Honduras humanitarian mission would have on him personally. He plans to return every year.

“I went down there on a whim. I didn’t know what to expect, and it was incredibly rewarding. By the end of the week, there was nothing but smiles, hugs and tears of happiness.”

 

When Cody Thomas, director – Crew Support, challenged his team to achieve ambitious goals, he promised the ultimate prize in return: shaving his head. Cody is now sporting a Mr. Clean look, and motivation never looked so good!

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Cody Thomas took over our Crew Support department just over a year ago, at the tail end of one of the most challenging winters to date. Through a number of training initiatives, process changes and a continuous feedback loop, the department made great strides in 2014 to improve customer service and performance.

In November 2014, with another winter looming, Cody challenged his team to achieve even more ambitious goals. As motivation to work together to meet the challenge, Cody promised he would shave his head if the team met the goals.

“Cody is truly an involved leader. He walks the floor, listens to feedback and keeps us updated on the department and the company,” said Michael B., flight crew scheduler. “The challenge Cody is going to fulfill this afternoon is just another example of how he is there for us. At the end of the day, I feel pride in my job, my leadership and my company.”

Our Crew Support team achieved record performance numbers this winter and the time has come for Cody to pay up.

“Everything we do as leaders is to support our people,” said Cody. “I am so proud of everything my team has accomplished. I believe that actions speak louder than words. For better or worse, I will do whatever my team needs to be successful. Now let the shaving begin!”

Crew Support team members gathered on the 4th floor of A-Tech Friday for the ceremonial head shaving. With handmade signs supporting Cody’s ultimate motivator, the team cheered as Crew Scheduling Managers Michelle and Brad, took clippers to Cody’s once-dark locks.

“Cody leads by example, cares for his team and would be the first to say that the best is yet to come,” said Brad Sheehan, vice president – Flight Operations. “He knows the importance of culture, and a significant part of that is having fun. Shaving his head tells you three things: this team is incredibly capable and keeps getting better, Cody does what he says he will, and although it’s hard work, you should still have fun doing it. And let’s be honest, it’s not that much hair…”

Introducing the new, improved (?), Director of Crew Support: Mr. Clean! Oops…Cody Thomas!!
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In honor of Women in Aviation month, we’re featuring ExpressJet women who have successful careers in aviation and continue to advance the legacy of women in the industry. 

Rachael Sullivan

In college, Shreveport-based line mechanic Rachael Sullivan was one of two women in a class of 30 studying for an A&P license.

“There were only about five women total at the entire school,” said Rachael. She graduated from the Airframe and Powerplant program at the Redstone Institute in Houston, Texas, which provides training and instruction in industrial fields.

While she always had an inclination toward mechanics, she never thought she’d be destined for a career in aviation.

“In high school, I was determined to join the military. Unfortunately, my medical history prevented my enlistment.”

Instead, she enrolled in Redstone and earned her A&P license in 2006. After graduation, she landed an interview with ExpressJet and was immediately hired as an A&P technician in Shreveport.

“When I first started my career, there weren’t many women pursuing maintenance careers. The women I did come across mostly got started from their experience in the military.”

It takes physical agility, good judgment and a dedication to safety to be a successful aircraft technician, and Rachael has never once doubted her or any woman’s ability to work in the field.

“I imagine that there was once an attitude that women weren’t as capable, but nowadays it’s not an issue. I’ve never had problems with it being ‘a man’s world.’ If given the opportunity and you work hard enough, you can do this job.”

After nearly a decade in aviation, Rachael has noticed an increase in the number of women, including the number of female mechanics, hired by ExpressJet. She hopes to see more women break into the industry but recognizes there are other challenges.

“It would be nice for women to expand the field,” she said. “But as an individual, you first have to be mechanically inclined and maintenance is a very specialized career. Many people don’t think of it when they think of airlines.”

Rachael encourages women interested in aviation careers to consider maintenance, and she hopes they never view their gender as a disadvantage, especially when in pursuit of a career not often considered by young girls.

“Women need to know we can hold our own and be successful in any career if we put our minds to it.”

In honor of Women in Aviation month, we’re featuring ExpressJet women who have successful careers in aviation and continue to advance the legacy of women in the industry. 

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For Atlanta-based dispatcher Kimberly Bates, life is about having the courage to take the road less traveled, especially when in pursuit of a lifelong dream.

“Since childhood, I wanted to work with airplanes, but for years people told me I couldn’t,” said Kimberly. “I eventually stopped listening to those people.”

The daughter of an Air Force pilot, Kimberly realized her life’s passion when she took her first commercial airline trip at the age of five.

“I was hooked. The flight attendants gave me wings and I vividly remember looking out the window and watching the clouds pass by. I’ve had a wicked case of wanderlust ever since.”

In 1978, during deregulation of the airline industry, Kimberly graduated high school only to find her dream career wasn’t available to most women. At the time, most aviation professionals entered the commercial airline industry through the Air Force, which first opened its doors to female cadets in 1976. Still, Kimberly faced impossible roadblocks.

“I could never meet the height requirements. I was too small to be a military pilot and too small to be a flight attendant.”

With a dream derailed, Kimberly enrolled in college and worked in pharmaceutical sales before returning to school for an MBA. In 1990, she appeared to accomplish her goals when a major airline hired her as an analyst in their passenger sales department.

“I finally worked for an airline, but the job wasn’t with planes. When I expressed interest in moving into operations, I was told, again, it wasn’t the right path for me.”

Kimberly left after two years and bounced from medical sales to telecommunications and project management. When her job was eventually outsourced, she decided to give the airline industry another try.

As fate would have it, while on a flight from New York Kimberly was seated next to a non-reving flight attendant who told her the previous height requirements for flight attendants no longer existed within the industry. Despite the welcome news, she faced another challenge – timing. With two toddlers at home, it wasn’t the right moment to pursue a job involving extensive travel. Instead, Kimberly encouraged her friend to apply and she was hired by Continental Express Airlines.

Three years later, that same friend notified her when ExpressJet opened a station in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., where Kimberly lived at the time. In 2004, a decade after her previous airline experience, Kimberly was hired as a cross-trained agent before transferring to Inflight as a flight attendant.

“I owe an immense debt to the gentleman who hired me at ExpressJet. Despite my background and education, he believed me when I told him, ‘I just want to work with planes.’”

After three years as a flight attendant, Kimberly longed to learn more about operations and decided to earn a dispatcher license. In February 2015, she happily returned to dispatch after a period of working in the Inflight training department.

Kimberly knows her career path is an unusual journey.

“Technically, I’m still in training! Eleven years with ExpressJet and I’m the most junior CRJ dispatcher,” she laughed. “But my exposure and experience in different departments allowed me to do some fabulous things and better understand the operations at ExpressJet from both sides. I wanted to learn as much as I could, and I’m glad I was willing to take a different step and try something new.”

Kimberly’s patience and relentless persistence is a testament to her adventurous spirit. Though her journey to the OCC was years in the making, she recognizes the hurdles women overcame to make their mark in the airline industry.

“When I was younger, women in aviation were a tremendous exception. The doors were not wide open. There was no mentorship or support available. Today, you meet a lot of females in the industry.”

Kimberly is excited to see more women joining the industry, a fact she noticed when she represented ExpressJet during the 26th Annual Women in Aviation Conference in Dallas, Texas. She credits the increase in women aviation professionals to the generational change in attitude towards women in traditionally male-dominated work environments, as well as the changes in the career path to commercial aviation and exposure to new career opportunities.

“It’s amazing how the world’s turned over in the past few decades. People no longer say a woman can’t do a job because of her gender.”

A travel enthusiast, Kimberly is a published travel writer and photographer, and she advocates taking advantage of the privileges of working for an airline.

“Where else can you fly home to see your family for one day or travel to another city for your favorite restaurant?” she said.

Kimberly also serves as a mentor to others and encourages people to open themselves up to new possibilities and be daring with their career choices.

“There’s this idea that once you’re on one path, you have to stay on that path. If you’re willing to step sideways or even backwards, you may find yourself with an opportunity that puts you two steps forward. It took me 25 years to get into this business, and the incredible opportunities I’ve had are the result of not following one path.”

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