Ross Beatty graduate sparks students’ interest in aviation

Published 7:14 am Sunday, May 16, 2004

By By MARCIA STEFFENS / Cassopolis Vigilant
CASSOPOLIS -- Bringing snack mix and cookies, which Stewardess Serena Howley normally passes out to passengers while high in the sky, the former 1983 Ross Beatty graduate was a welcome speaker to Career Pathways students.
Howley brought along Captain Tim Williams, a pilot for Delta who is also based in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Williams, 43, flew solo long before he ever drove a car. Growing up in Holland, he was always motivated to fly, offering to wash airplanes in exchange for a flight.
At an age when most young men were trying to buy a vehicle, Williams had bought a plane and headed for Alaska.
Even having friends killed in a plane crash, a plane which he was supposed to be on, didn't deter him.
For five years he was a bush pilot in the farthest point north in Alaska, landing on ice for those tracking polar bears, and finding landing areas for hunters.
He gave hints to the students on how to present themselves for a job interview and what training is needed. Some airlines offer schooling, he said, and scholarships. "You can get your degree while flying," he said.
Now Williams said he wished he had studied the history of the country, now that he has been so many places in his 10 years with Delta. "Math is important," he stressed, even with the computers which say what speed and height the plane should be flying. "I am still responsible."
He commented that the aviation classes at Southwestern Michigan College are "a good way to get into the door."
In the air on Sept. 11, 2001, Williams was on a Washington to San Antonio flight. Though he had learned a plane had hit the tower, everyone thought it was a small plane accident.
He lost his hydraulic landing gear and asked to fly over and have then check his landing gear, which was standard procedure in such a case, and something "I was trained for 18 years" to do.
Their reaction was strange and when he approached the airport he saw so many planes on the ground he knew something was wrong. Until he landed though, he knew less than those who were watching the events unfold on television.
Like the pilots who needed to go through FBI training to carry guns following 9-11, flight attendants also had some changes.
Her regret is not having more medical training, as often she has to deal with heart attacks, strokes, diabetic comas and other physical problems with her passengers. When something happens, "you have to handle it," she said. Their is one flight attendant for every 50 passengers.
She has learned to be aware of a person's coloring, whether they are sweating or other signs of stress. "Nine times out of 10 a physician, nurse or EMT are on board," she added.
Howley, whose father Tom of Cassopolis, used to be principal of Red Brick and Brookside schools, began as a gate agent and went into inflight.
She would have given the students plastic wings, which are given out to children on board, but they were banned after 9-11, and replaced with stickers.