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Airline CEO offers career advice to aeronautics students

Liberty University School of Aeronautics students got an insider’s look at the airline industry on Tuesday as Piedmont Airlines President and CEO Lyle Hogg made a visit to campus.

“The aviation industry is a growing industry; there are opportunities all around the world,” Hogg told the approximately 200 students in attendance at a dinner event. “It is a very exciting, very dynamic industry. There’s never been a better time to be in aviation.”

Piedmont Airlines Inc. (a subsidiary of the American Airlines Group) operates nearly 400 daily departures to about 60 cities throughout the eastern United States and has ground handling crews in almost 80 airports across the country. Pilots with Piedmont have a guaranteed future job with American Airlines and on average make the  jump to the world’s largest airline in about five years. It is the fastest path from a regional airline to a major airline anywhere.

Piedmont is one of several companies that have hiring agreements with Liberty’s School of Aeronautics, guaranteeing jobs for qualifying students and, in some cases, helping pay for their training. In addition to pilots, Piedmont also hires graduates from the Aviation Maintenance Technician Program, with several alumni currently working at Piedmont locations in Roanoke and Richmond, Va. (Piedmont has partnered with Snap-on Tools to offer a free stocked toolbox and guaranteed job interview with the company for a student each year.)

“If we can align ourselves with quality institutions like Liberty, it is a win-win situation,” Hogg said.

School of Aeronautics Dean Jim Molloy said it was a rare honor for students to hear from an airline executive.

“In most cases, if you want to hear from a company CEO, you have to go to them,” he said. “A CEO of a top company came to Liberty for the specific purpose of speaking with students directly. It was a tremendous event, and we are very appreciative of the partnership we have with Piedmont Airlines.”

During the visit, Hogg and other Piedmont representatives spent time meeting with students and sharing about the opportunities with the company.

“We are looking for quality individuals and we really feel that Liberty provides quality individuals,” Hogg said. “I really believe in developing a family atmosphere, and if we can reach into the institutions and extend that family atmosphere, that’s what we are looking to do — to help make the student’s experience a little bit better, whether they go to Piedmont or not.”

Hogg also spent more than half an hour answering students’ questions and offering them career advice.

“You should operate in a standardized manner every day,” Hogg said, noting that there is zero room for mistakes in the cockpit. “You have got to constantly learn and constantly stay sharp.”

After the event, students were invited to walk through an Embraer-145 regional jet that landed at Lynchburg Regional Airport and talk with crew members.

Peter McCord, a certified flight instructor with Liberty who recently graduated from the commercial/corporate program, said it “means a lot” to him for a CEO to offer his advice.

“I really liked how he said ‘quality training makes a good pilot, not the amount of hours (spent flying),’” he said. “Liberty does a great job of training pilots. The courses and training opportunities set us up well for the opportunities out there.”

“Knowing that companies are coming to us to recruit is a wonderful feeling,” McCord added.

Senior commercial/corporate student Seth Imboden said thanks to the opportunities Liberty offers, he can have confidence going into his career.

“It’s really nice to know Liberty has built these relationships,” Imboden said. “They’ve been able to be competitive with the other big aviation schools throughout the country.”