Aviation management students get a taste of flying

Flight instructor Isaac Shapiro, left, goes over a Flight instructor Isaac Shapiro, left, goes over a preflight check list with York College Students Fawwad Toor, right, and Dongmei Zhu center during Spring Flight Training Day at Republic Airport in Farmingdale. (April 15, 2013) Photo Credit: Ed Betz

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Eun Chan Mok knew he wouldn't be a pilot when the results of a vision test came back to him in high school.

But there he was Monday at Republic Airport in East Farmingdale, strapping into a Cessna for a quick jaunt over to Connecticut and back.

Mok, 20, was one of 15 students from the aviation management program at York College in Queens participating in Spring Flight Training Day, a partnership among the college, Cessna and the Academy of Aviation, a Republic-based flight school.

The flight training day is meant to be the final piece in a syllabus that focuses on aspects of commercial flight besides flying aircraft. "There's working with cargo," said Alfred Ntoko, dean of the college's school of business, "there's marketing, there's airport planning."

Industry jobs are opening in the United States and abroad but minorities are still underrepresented, Albert Glenn, chairman of the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals and a flight captain for FedEx, said in a phone interview.

The cost of learning to fly and other training or unfamiliarity with the industry discourages many potential young minority job candidates, he said.

"I fly in and out of Dubai and their whole operation is basically ex-pats, Americans who work on airplanes, Americans flying, Americans managing their operations," he said.

And, he said, many stateside jobs are opening as baby boomers age into retirement.

Some of the students Monday already have experience in the industry. Dongmei Zhu, 27, was a flight attendant in China for four years before she decided the job wasn't for her; Khadim Kebe, 25, grew up in Senegal watching his father work in aviation there.

In a perfect world, he said, he'd pick up some flight training hours along with his aviation management degree before going to work for Boeing or the Federal Aviation Administration. Eventually, he said, "I could go back, be a leader and grow the aviation industry in Senegal."

The students trooped out onto the tarmac and went through preflight safety checks with their flight instructors. Most were getting behind the controls for the first time under the supervision of the instructors, who took off and landed.

"I'm feeling excited about it," Kebe said.

The destination was Groton, Conn. The trip over took about a half-hour, with visibility of 50 miles and pizza for lunch, followed by ground training.

"Very, very exciting," said Zhu, upon her return, adding that she'd made an in-air turn.

"You could see the bays, the streets, the parks: It was beautiful to be up there," Kebe said. "It was pretty awesome, and I know it's not going to be the last flight for me."

Before the flight, Raulina Solares, 21, said she was interested only in the management part of aviation. "Now I'm thinking after I finish I should take the pilots' training -- I'm in love with it," she said.

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