Alumni Airline Captains Encourage Flexibility as Students Enter Aviation
Embry-Riddle alumni Alyse Adkins and Michael Dee are both airline captains. They both have huge management responsibilities. They both still get to fly in their jobs. And, they both advise students who want to go into aviation to be so flexible in their search for employment that they can grab opportunities even in fast-changing and dramatically dynamic environments.
“You have to be able to adapt,” said Adkins (’13), who is a UPS flight-qualified supervisor on the Boeing 757 and 767 with over 8,500 flight hours. “Things are not going to go as you’re expecting. Stay optimistic and take the things that you think are negatives and make opportunities of them.”
Adkins and Dee (’97) — who is managing director of flight operations for Republic Airways, overseeing 2,000 professional pilots and a fleet of more than 200 Embraer 170/175 aircraft — spoke about their careers, their companies and the state of aviation at the eighth session of Embry-Riddle’s free and interactive Aviation Outlook webinar series.
Aviation Outlook webinar event, to be held at 6 p.m. (EDT) Wednesday, Sept. 23, via Zoom, Embry-Riddle’s deans of Aviation welcome Embry-Riddle alumna Kim Becker, president and CEO of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority. Becker is responsible for management oversight of the Airport Authority and San Diego International Airport (SAN), which generates $11.9 billion annually in economic impact for the southern California region. She will discuss managing a major American airport, the impact of the pandemic on SAN and answer your questions. Register now.
Although the two captains cited lessons learned, and predicted progress throughout the aviation industry, both emphasized the flux and unpredictability in the industry created by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ve been adjusting on the fly. No one has had a plan on the shelf for what we’re experiencing right now,” said Dee, referring to policies that in some cases have resulted in permanent changes, such as increased use of remote work for employees who used to work at headquarters, and airlines’ heightened emphasis on sanitization.
Adkins recommended that Embry-Riddle students seize opportunities as they encounter them, referring to her own experience of taking flight lessons at age 14 during high school study hall. “Never be afraid to ask,” she said.
Dee had a similar recommendation regarding opportunities for learning.
“Learn something from every single person you fly with,” he said. “Never get complacent. You’ll be learning throughout your whole career.”
College of Aviation Dean Alan Stolzer, who moderated the webinar, asked Adkins about her interest and experience in mentoring young women, mentioning that Embry-Riddle is working to increase female enrollment in the College of Aviation, and especially in the Aeronautical Science program.
Although she acknowledged that the number of women in aviation is rising, she said that when she visits elementary, middle and high schools in uniform, none of the students guess that she is a pilot when she asks them, “What am I?”
“If I can do one thing in my career, I want to show young women that we can do this,” she said. “I think the future for women is looking brighter when it comes to getting the numbers up, but we have to keep supporting women and making sure we’ve got the role models out there.”
Dee spoke highly of the education he received at Embry-Riddle, stating that he uses all the courses he took, including everything from technical writing and psychology, to world navigation.
“The curriculum is outstanding if you want to be a pilot,” he said, adding that the training he received in his undergraduate program prepared him to fly not only general aviation aircraft but also make the transition to jets. “Do it the Embry-Riddle way.”
Posted In: Aviation