Co-op/Intern Spotlight: De Paul Sunny

De Paul Sunny, BS Aeronautics

De Paul Sunny recently completed his third semester and second internship/co-op with JetBlue Airways. In summer 2010, he completed an E190 Training Program Developer internship with the airline. The following summer, he went back to JetBlue to complete a one-year stint as a Flight Safety Co-op, which he will continue even after his December 18 graduation with a Bache lor of Science in Aeronautics.

You are on your second internship and third semester with JetBlue Airways. What kind of things have you done in your roles as E190 Training Program Developer and Flight Safety Co-op?

Both the internships have given me completely different experiences in the industry. As an E190 Training Program Developer, I worked at JetBlue’s Flight Training Department known as JetBlue University (JBU) and took on several different projects that ranged from ensuring JetBlue’s compliance with aspects of FAR Part 142 to leading the project on upgrading our training certification system to utilizing the FAA’s IACRA system.

I think the most exciting part of the internship was that I was essentially “checked-out” in the A320 and E190 simulators to provide demos for business partners, crew members and other interns. It also meant that I could use the simulator whenever there were no activity and practice approaches into St. Maarten (beautiful!), fly a VFR trip to Boston from New York, or even see the New York City skyline.

I really enjoyed this internship and wished it lasted more than a summer. But in the end, it provided me with great experience and exposure in the industry and subsequently led to me getting hired as a full-time co-op at JetBlue in the Flight Safety department.

My position as a Flight Safety co-op is significantly different from my previous position. I work at JetBlue’s headquarters in New York on a full-time basis for a period of at least a year. In this position, I have been basically treated as a full-time air safety investigator looking into various flight events that may pose risk to JetBlue’s operation. As such, most of my daily duties include FAA and NTSB notification on events as applicable and performing initial risk assessments on events reported to the department by line pilots. I have taken part in several flight safety investigations where I had to collect and analyze flight data, conduct crew debriefs and coordinate with various departments within JetBlue to issue findings or recommendations to help mitigate areas of identified risk. The investigations conducted eventually lead to corrective actions implemented in various departments and sometimes even industry wide.

Being in this position has also increased my exposure to several key people in various departments because I am constantly in contact with various departmental heads for different events. Since most investigations involve either the FAA or NTSB, the exposure to these government agencies has also been great.

I am also sent to various industry meetings or conferences to represent JetBlue and provide feedback on industry wide actions. This year I was sent to the International Society of Air Safety Investigators Conference in Salt Lake City and also a Runway Safety Action Team meeting in Boston. I have also been able to visit the FAA Technical Center in Atlantic City to get information on an investigation that I was assisting with.

How have you been able to apply your internship experience in the classroom?

During my first internship I was a junior at Riddle and soon after the internship I had to take several classes that were directly related to the projects that I had done during the internships. During my internship at JetBlue University, I had to review the training materials on the Airbus A320 and the Embraer E190. This was a really great project because it essentially taught me the aircraft systems and it helped me in the Jet Transport Systems, Electronic Flight Management Systems and Aircraft Performance classes that I would take later.

On the other hand, since I am doing the flight safety co-op during my senior year and right before graduation, I have been able to apply more of what I had learned in my aviation safety classes such as risk assessment, crash-worthiness and safety in transportation to be better at the internship.

In either case, the benefit of an internship or co-op lies in the work experience it provides. Doing an internship will definitely enhance your view on things taught in the classroom and give a better perspective on the reality of concepts learned in the classroom.

 Do you have any advice for students who are on the fence about doing an internship?

Do it! I cannot emphasize enough the value of an internship! I am sure you have heard this before but I will say it again, an internship gives you a much better prospect of getting employed at the company of your choice after graduation. The contacts that you build during your internships will prove to be extremely valuable and an internship significantly increases your exposure to the industry.

Let me try to put it in perspective. I know several graduates that have wondered why an application to an entry-level job is sometimes rejected because “they don’t have enough experience.” I mean, that’s the whole point of an entry-level position right, to gain experience? Well this is where an internship could really help you out. It’s easy to see from an employer’s perspective how it is so much better to choose a candidate who is out of college with a degree and has work experience by way of an internship than a candidate who graduated, maybe a year sooner, without any experience.

I recently interviewed for a full-time position and I will say that the difference in the perceptions you have and the answers you give before and after an internship are like night and day. You understand the industry better, you know what the hiring manager is looking for, and you have a lot more experiences that you can pull from when forming your responses.

An internship may set you back by a semester or so but if your reason to get a degree is to get a job in your relevant industry, that additional semester you graduated early by will not help.

What are your plans after you graduate this month?

My short term plans are to continue working for JetBlue and gain some more experience. After this co-op is over, I plan to look for a permanent position within aviation safety. I am also entertaining the idea of getting a master’s degree in Human Factors while continuing to build my flight hours.

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