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Readying for Take Off

News Feature

News & Events

September 2, 2014

Sometimes it’s helpful to view one’s future career as a flight path.

This is especially relevant for those hoping to work in the aviation industry, specifically becoming a pilot.

A new partnership between Bridgewater State University, JetBlue and Cape Air will give students a more definitive path to the cockpit, according to officials from each organization who spoke at a press conference held at Logan International Airport. The JetBlue University Gateway Program takes the best aviation students and helps with training and mentoring, eventually setting them squarely on the path to fly first for Cape Air and then JetBlue. BSU is the seventh institution to be taken aboard.

“Bridgewater State University is perfect for the Gateway Program,” said Capt. Paul Hocking, JetBlue’s Boston base chief, who works with the up-and-coming pilots. He cited the location of the institution, its “impressive” program, and the relationship BSU maintains with its students and their parents as key to the success of the initiative.

The Gateway Program was founded in 2007, with roughly 40 participants. Today, that number is nearly 200. Thus far, 20 participants have made it all the way through the program and fly for JetBlue. Scott Johnson, a graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, is one of the program’s success stories.

“This program got me to JetBlue,” he said. “It was a clear path.”

Also on hand was BSU graduate Keith Anderson, who also flies for JetBlue.

JetBlue officials said that previously the path wasn’t very clear for aviation students seeking to fly for a major carrier. 

“There was no avenue for those pilots,” said Craig Bentley, senior vice president of operations for Cape Air. The Gateway Program is designed to provide just this. It’s a seven-year “flight plan” for students aiming for the top, and throughout, they absorb not only the benefits of the training and mentoring, but also the company’s values and culture, said JetBlue Capt. Eric Poole, who heads the program.

During the conference, others addressed the shortage of pilots and the concerns about the quality of skills this brings. Addressing these issues is one of the program’s other goals.

 “If we do what’s right for the students, everything will fall in place,” said Capt. Hocking.

Representing BSU at the press conference were Greg Bongiorno, aviation program manager and a pilot himself; and President Dana Mohler-Faria.

“This has been a long time coming for us,” Mr. Bongiorno said. “We didn’t have a lot of connections… It’s amazing how far we’ve come in the past six years.”

President Mohler-Faria said the new partnership marks “a big moment for us.” He discussed the 30-year history of BSU’s aviation program and how it almost came to an end several years ago. Instead of folding, it has expanded.

“As I see the future of aviation at Bridgewater, there is tremendous opportunity,” the president said. Seeing two alumni in their JetBlue uniforms, he added, “It makes me realize, with our various programs, what ultimately can happen for our graduates.”

After the press conference, the official documents were signed out on the runway. In the background was a JetBlue plane being readied for Mr. Anderson to pilot. President Mohler-Faria asked to to be photographed with the 2004 graduate in front of the idling jet. (Story by John Winters, G ’11; photos by student Nicholas Allende, University News)