Unique Youth Exchange Program for Airline Families Fosters Travel and Friendship

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One of the best things about working in the airline industry is the travel benefits.  GoJet employees are fortunate to have a wide range of affordable air fare options available to them, ranging from free domestic travel, to heavily discounted international travel.  As a result, GoJet employees tend to travel a lot, and their children often develop a love for travel at a young age.  When the children of GoJet employees grow into teenagers afflicted by wanderlust, they can spend up to two weeks in another country as part of a special program for airline families called the International Youth Exchange.

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The International Youth Exchange pairs up teens from airline families in different countries and gives them each the opportunity to spend two weeks with the family they are matched with.  After a participant spends two weeks with a host family, they return home, and the teen they were matched with stays with them for two weeks.

Participants are matched based on similarities in age, gender, and interests, as well as where they would like to visit.  Available locations include the United States, Europe, Canada, and Australia.  After the teens are matched and dates are decided, the participants communicate with one another so that they can get to know each other, as well as decide what activities they would like to do during their summer exchange.

The International Youth Exchange is the brainchild of Camille Wheeler, a retired Northwest Airlines employee, and the mother of Aaron Wheeler, a regional airline Captain.  Camille is the mother of four, and international travel for a family of six can be expensive, even with pass benefits.  On the International Youth Exchange website, Camille explains that the program was born from her desire for her children to be able to affordably travel abroad, learn different languages, and experience new cultures.  Aaron says that his mom first got the idea for the program when his family took a trip to France when he was younger.  She was looking for different options to avoid hotel costs, and began making connections with other airline families abroad.

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Inaugural Youth Exchange Participant, Captain Aaron Wheeler

Camille soon realized that there were other airline families all over the world who were interested in affordable international travel opportunities for their children.  The program slowly began to take shape.  Teens could fly overseas using their parents’ pass privileges, and stay for free for two weeks with an airline host family.  Then the teens would switch, and a teen from host family could visit the other teen’s home during a separate two week visit.

In 1994, Camille connected with a Swiss Air gate agent in Geneva, Switzerland, and young Aaron became the first participant in the International Youth Exchange program.  He was matched with  a Swiss teen, Greg Cunnet, who was around the same age, and shared his interests. “When Greg came to visit, we just hung out, played baseball and biked,” Aaron recalls. When Aaron and Greg first met, Greg was only beginning to learn English. “Since he grew up traveling in airplanes, he would always read the safety instructions. In fact, the first time that we met, all he could say in English was, ‘Fast-ten-seat-belt.'”

After Greg stayed with his family, Aaron visited Geneva and stayed with Greg’s family. Aaron recalls mostly doing things that were familiar to him from back home.

“We went swimming, biked around town, and even played Monopoly.Even a young age, I was struck by how we had more in common than not, even though we lived so far apart.”

Aaron and Greg continued to visit each other for 7 years through the program, and are still friends.  “We still visit each other when we can,” Aaron said.   “I even went to his wedding about a year and a half ago.”

The International Youth Exchange has come a long way from its one inaugural participant in 1994.  It has since placed over 6,000 students in exchanges.  “In 1994,” jokes Aaron, “we just had a single fax machine running twenty-four-seven. We would get applications from Europe in the middle of the night!  But now, applicants can apply online.”

Aaron continues to help his mother with the program, who is now devoted to it full-time. “I actually matched a young boy from Minneapolis,” recalls Aaron, “and his mom happened to be my gate agent for a while. Every couple of months, we would bump into each other, and she would say how much her son enjoyed the experience.”  He recounts another story from years ago, in which a young person was matched up with a family in Seattle.  The father of the family flew for an airline in the area.  The program participant loved Seattle so much, that years later, he got in touch with the father and ended up working for that same airline.

Aaron’s experiences with the International Youth Exchange have stayed with him through the years, and he encourages other airline families to take advantage of the opportunities for travel and friendship that the program offers.

“I truly believe that there is no better way to experience another country than with someone your own age,” he says.

The International Youth Exchange is currently accepting applications for summer 2017 exchanges.  Put those travel benefits to work, and give your teenager a summer they’ll never forget.  Download the program flyer here or visit the International Youth Exchange website to learn more and apply online.

Couple Says “I Do”…Delta Style

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Photo credit: Sherri Barber

It’s not every day that we get to host a mid-air wedding.  But on January 31, we got to do just that.  Two of our passengers, Ken and Tracy Nilsen, got married in the air on a flight between Cincinnati and Washington D.C.  Avid travelers, the Cincinnati-based couple wanted their wedding to reflect their wanderlust and spirit of adventure, and a mid-air wedding fit the bill.

“We’ve done a lot of traveling,” Tracy explained, “It’s a big, important aspect of our relationship. We tossed around a lot of travel-related wedding ideas, like a destination wedding, or having our reception in a hanger. But the only thing that seemed right was for us to actually get married on a plane.”  “A mid-air wedding just seemed like us,” added Ken.

Ken is a loyal Delta frequent flyer, for whom travel is an “obsession.”  When he and Tracy started getting serious, Ken was reminded of a quote he’d heard once.

“If you want to know if you’re right for each other, go somewhere that’s hard to get in and out of. If you can survive that travel experience, then you should marry her in the airport on your way back.”

Ken took the quote’s advice and booked their first trip as a couple to Cape Town, South Africa.  The journey took them 30 hours, including a five hour layover in Amsterdam.  “We found that the flight experiences were just as much fun for us as the destination,” Ken remembers.  “That’s when we knew that we were right for each other.”

Since then, Ken and Tracy have done a lot of traveling, both domestically and internationally, including a trip to Paris, where Ken asked Tracy to marry him.  “The Paris trip had a bit of a Delta theme,” Ken elaborates. “I wanted to book a flight that would qualify me for Diamond Medallion status.  All that I needed was a trip to Reno, but I wanted to go somewhere special, given what I had planned.”  In addition to earning Diamond Medallion status, the Paris trip provided a perfect backdrop for Ken’s proposal to Tracy at a Parisian cafe with a view of the Eiffel Tower in the background.  “I was getting nervous that the only reason for the trip was Ken’s Diamond status,” Tracy laughs, “but it ended with another kind of diamond!”

Once the couple decided to get married on a plane, everything fell into place.  They booked a Delta flight from Cincinnati to Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Washington D.C. for themselves and a 13 friends and family members, including a friend who would officiate, as well as a photographer and a DJ.  After getting married in the air, the wedding party would enjoy an afternoon at the DCA Sky Club before heading back to Cincinnati.

With only 15 people in their wedding party, there would be up to 54 unknowing passengers on the flight, which was a Delta Connection flight operated by GoJet Airlines. “We had our wedding programs printed on barf bags, so that the other passengers would know what they were getting into,” says Tracy. “We also distributed little airplane cards offering everyone in the plane a complimentary drink on us.”

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Photo credit:  Sherri Barber

The wedding went off without a hitch, with the officiant performing the quick ceremony just after the seatbelt sign went off.  The moment that the officiant proclaimed Ken and Tracy man and wife, a flight attendant called the flight deck, and the pilots provided Ken and Tracy with the coordinates for exactly where they were when they were married.  Since you can’t have a wedding without music, the DJ set the tone by playing “Come Fly With Me” by Frank Sinatra and “Roam” by the B-52s on his laptop.  Delta had stocked the plane with champagne, which was served as soon as the ceremony ended.

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Photo credit:  Sherri Barber

GoJet flight attendant Sian Montgomery was thrilled to be a part of Ken and Tracy’s big day. “It was a beautiful event to witness, and it was wonderful to help make our passengers’ dreams come true.  It was a magical day, and I was blessed to be part of it.  Another great flight attendant moment to stow away in my memory box”

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The happy couple and the GoJet team.  (Photo credit:  Sherri Barber)

When the couple arrived at DCA, they discovered that Delta had pulled out all the stops.  An archway and white carpet strewn with rose petals awaited them in the gate area, along with rows of cheering passengers and Delta employees.

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Photo credit:  Ken & Tracy Nilson

There was no mistaking the newlyweds as they made their way to the Sky Club!

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Photo credit:  Ken & Tracy Nilsen

When they arrived at the Sky Club, they discovered that Delta had arranged a beautiful lunch, including a gorgeous cake with a  keepsake aircraft model.

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After an afternoon at the Sky Club, Ken and Tracy returned to Cincinnati via another Delta Connection flight operated by GoJet.  But with as much as these two travel, we have a feeling that we’ll be seeing them again soon.  Here’s to a lifetime of new adventures!

Click here to read about Ken and Tracy’s big day on the Delta News Hub

Local High School Students Learn that GoJet has Endless Opportunities for Aspiring Aviators

Our Recruiting team is passionate about bringing new talent to GoJet, and has always relied on flight schools, university aviation programs, and technical schools to provide a consistent influx of skilled new hires.  However, one of Recruiting’s newest initiatives aims to expose a different group of young people to careers in aviation – high school students.

“Over the years, we’ve discovered that students’ career  trajectories are pretty set by the time they’re in their late teens to early twenties,” explains Recruiting Manager Doug Franciscus.  “We realized that we needed to plant the seed of aviation as a career path earlier than college.”  As part of this new initiative, GoJet recently hosted an Aerospace Engineering class from Liberty Academy in suburban St. Louis at our corporate headquarters.

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Aerospace Engineering students from Liberty Academy in suburban St. Louis tour our facilities

Students were given a behind the scenes look at airline operations and were exposed to a myriad of different aviation career opportunities right in their hometown.  During their visit, students stopped by our maintenance hangar for an up close look at our CRJ700 aircraft, and learned about all of the different departments that work together in our busy ops center.

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Liberty High School students get an up close look at our CRJ700 aircraft.

They also toured our state of the art cabin trainer, which allows our flight attendants to train for emergencies they may face in the air in a realistic, but safe setting.  The students even had the chance to observe a cabin smoke evacuation simulation, complete with fake smoke.

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The GoJet cabin trainer

The students had studied how airplanes operate during class, and came to the tour with plenty of questions, impressing pilot recruiter Captain Anthony Portalatin, who accompanied the students during their visit.  “They really researched our planes before they got here, and were asking the same aircraft component questions that I hear from pilots in ground school,” he remarked.  “That kind of proactive behavior is exactly what we’re looking for in future aviators.”

Wyatt and Brendan, two Liberty Academy seniors, both appreciated how the visit tied in to what they were learning in class, while also teaching them about other facets of aviation.

“Seeing the plane up close is a direct correlation to our course,” says Wyatt.  Currently a private pilot, Wyatt says that he wants to get into a professional pilot program, and eventually fly for an airline. For him, one of the highlights of the visit was the cabin smoke evacuation simulation. “That was both fun and a learning experience for me.”

After finishing high school, Brendan wants to either enter the Air Force Academy or the ROTC, and eventually become an Air Force pilot.  “I didn’t know how much effort really went into the logistics of running an airline,” he confesses. “In class, we’ve been focusing mainly on what goes into aircraft operations. It prepared me for seeing the plane and instruments up close, but seeing how the airline operates was very eye-opening to me.”

After the visit, Captain Portalatin said that he was struck by the impact that something as simple as a school field trip could have on a student’s future.  “Seeing a student’s eyes light up from such a hands-on experience is really meaningful. Especially when they realize that it could be a possible career path.”

We hope to see those students from Liberty Academy again – in our crew loungers, in our maintenance hangar, and at our corporate headquarters.  We have hundreds of different career opportunities waiting for them.

Our Favorite Blog Posts of 2016 Revisited

With the year winding down, we thought that it would be the perfect time to put together a compilation of some of our favorite blog posts of 2016.  Here’s a sample of what our employees have been up to this year.

Piano Playing PIlot Delights Passengers at Chicago O’Hare

Captain Billy Hock isn’t just a talented pilot.  He’s also a musician and songwriter who spends layovers at O’hare playing the piano for passengers.

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GoJet Captain Billy Hock, meeting a fan after playing the piano at Chicago O’Hare

Pilot Recruiter James Douvier Explains What it Takes to Be a GoJet Pilot

In one of our most viewed posts of the year, pilot recruiter Captain James Douvier explains that there’s more to being a GoJet pilot than just being a great aviator.  James is looking for pilots who are going to come to GoJet and make a difference.

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Pilot Recruiter Captain James Douvier

Maintenance Control: The Unseen Face of Tech Ops

The majority of our passengers have most likely never heard the term “Maintenance Control.”  However, the safety and timeliness of our flights depends on this important group of GoJet employees.  This department is critical to keeping our airplanes safe, our flights on schedule, and our passengers happy.

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Maintenance Controller Steven Perez

Summer Interns Contribute to the Operation in Big Ways

During the summer of 2016, three talented young interns contributed to the operation in big ways.  Aviation students Morgan Hunlen, Jade Lubinski, and Alex Dupre all took full advantage of the opportunity to move their studies beyond the classroom, and had an abundance of new knowledge when they returned to school in the fall.

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Our summer interns getting a rare, behind-the-scenes tour of the control tower at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.

GoJet Flight Attendant Wins First Runner Up in the Miss North Carolina Pageant

Our employees do some truly astounding things in their free time.  Take GoJet flight attendant Juanette Roache – when she’s not providing stellar customer service at 37,000 feet, she regularly volunteers at her local soup kitchen and homeless shelter, as well as mentors children through the Boys and Girls Club.  Her community service led to an opportunity this spring to compete in the 20160 Mrs. North Carolina pageant, where she was named the first runner up and received the People’s Choice Award.

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GoJet Flight Attendant Juannette Roache

We have no doubt that our employees will continue to impress us next year.  We can’t wait to see what 2017 brings.  Happy New Year!

GoJet SOC Collects Toys to Benefit Toys for Tots

When employees in our SOC wanted to give back to the community this holiday season, they turned to a very worthy organization – Toys For Tots.  Toys for Tots is a charity run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve that collects new, unwrapped toys, and distributes them to children who may not have anything to open on Christmas.

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The toy drive was organized by Crew Scheduling Manager Stephani Mayhall, who was looking for something the SOC could do as a group to benefit those who are less fortunate.  “It’s important to remember, especially during this time of year, that there are people who aren’t as well off as we are,” she said.  “We’re employed, but those who aren’t may need help, and we wanted to get involved.”

Crew Scheduling Department Coordinator Heather Brown has been volunteering with Toys for Tots for years, and suggested to Stephani that the SOC hold a toy drive benefiting the organization. “I’ve been involved with Toys For Tots events since I was in high school,” Heather explains. “When I was in junior ROTC, I helped collect money so that we could buy toys to donate. I’ve also helped Toys For Tots wrap presents that have been donated.”

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Stephani Mayhall (left) and Heather Brown (right), with representatives from the Marine Corps Reserve

It’s often hard for SOC employees to take part in fundraising activities at GoJet headquarters, because those activities usually occur during daytime business hours from 9-5.  The SOC is a 24 hour operation, and many employees work nights.  Stephani and Heather wanted to make it very easy for everyone to participate, so they set up a large collection box in the SOC, where gifts could be dropped off at any time.

In addition to appreciating how convenient it was to participate, employees were also very enthusiastic about helping out a charity affiliated with the Marine Corps.  “People here really appreciate our military,” Heather explained.  “Many of our employees are are former military, so this really resonated with them.  “People really got into it,” Stephani added, “and we plan to bring this back again next year!”

The toy drive was a big success, bringing in nearly 70 toys for Toys for Tots.  Stephani and Heather are already planning on doing it again next year!

Christmas is just five days away, but the Marine Corps Reserve is still collecting toy donations.  Click here to learn more.

The GoJet SOC Enjoys a Good Meal for a Good Cause

For many, the Thanksgiving holiday was a long weekend, filled with family, food, football and shopping.  However, many GoJet employees, including pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, and those in Systems Operations Control (SOC), sacrificed Thanksgiving with their families to make sure that our passengers arrived at their holiday destinations safely.

Our SOC employees celebrated Thanksgiving in the office, with an incredible spread from Mimi’s Cafe.  The feast offered something for all appetites, including a wide variety of vegan offerings.

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But the restaurant’s delicious and extensive menu was just part of the reason why the SOC chose Mimi’s to cater their holiday dinner. Mimi’s relationship with the Children’s Hunger Fund was what sealed the deal.  “We found out that for every order placed, Mimi’s would donate a meal to the Children’s Hunger Fund,” explained Heather Brown, who coordinated the meal.  “Our order resulted in the donation of 16 meals to children in need.”

The SOC is keeping that same spirit of giving rolling into December, with a toy drive benefiting Toys for Tots.

 

GoJet Employee Wins Prestigious Aviation Maintenance Award

Congratulations to Fleet Support Coordinator Ben Dunbar, who has been named to the AMT Next Gen 40 Under 40 List!  Aircraft Maintenance Technology Magazine launched this recognition program to shine a light on the benefits of a career in aircraft maintenance and to inspire the next generation of aviation professionals.

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This annual contest recognizes aircraft maintenance professionals who have challenged themselves professionally by taking advantage of training opportunities that have allowed them to continue learning and progress in their careers.  In addition, the individuals selected have made contributions to the industry as a whole, and make the industry safer by maintaining aircraft to the highest possible standards.

GoJet Director of Maintenance, Aaron Armstrong, isn’t surprised that Ben was selected for this prestigious award.  “Ben brings a phenomenal skill set to our team, and this recognition is well-deserved,” he remarked.  “Ben’s constant desire to learn more has an enormous influence on those around him.”

At GoJet, safety is our top priority.  Ben, along with every other GoJet employee, has dedicated his career to the safety of our aircraft and passengers, and he embodies that commitment each and every day.

Click here to read the write up on Ben and his accomplishments in the November/December 2016 issue of Aircraft Maintenance Technology.

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Ready to join the GoJet maintenance team?  Click here.