A Sneak Peek of My Summer Internship at Epic Flight Academy
By Cilia Salam
Finding an Internship
During the summer of 2021, I had the opportunity to do a summer internship with Epic Flight Academy. I had been trying to earn some work experience in the new normal of COVID-19 before I graduate with my master’s degree in the fall semester. At the beginning of the spring semester, I started applying and looking for internship opportunities. Like any other ambitious and enthusiastic ERAU aviation student, I was looking forward to an internship at a major airline. With uncertainty caused by COVID-19, the airlines had little to no availability for an intern. I ended up looking at local flight schools upon faculty recommendation. So, I started looking for commutable places with opportunities. Epic Flight Academy caught my eye for professionalism and its familial school environment. After a few brief interviews and official meetings, I was privileged to join the Epic Family.
About Epic Flight Academy
Epic Flight Academy is a vocational flight school. Student pilots from all around the world come here with the dream of learning how to fly. Most of the students come with zero flight experience or prior education about flying. The international students graduate with their commercial pilot license and go back home to fly for their home country airlines. The domestic students often become flight instructors and teach for a couple of years before they start their airline careers.
As an intern, I got to explore many aspects of the flight school. I observed/shadowed in all departments and worked closely with a few on daily basis. My job included investigating risk management and ensuring mitigations are in place for the flight crews. I assisted the dispatch team to monitor the daily resources to ensure the flight school has adequate availability. Also, I served as an operational liaison between departments to confirm that Epic flight operations, line operations, and maintenance comply with safety procedures. In addition, I got to work with safety reports firsthand and was permitted to observe a few of the official meetings. Lastly, I also found opportunities to ask questions from my understanding and knowledge of aviation psychology, human cognition, and crew resource management perspectives.
Learning the Ropes
Flight training itself brings an extra set of rules and regulations to operations. Learning them in detail was a valuable educational experience. The beginning of the internship was a little intense – trying to fit into the workplace, bonding with coworkers, and learning about my tasks was overwhelming but exciting. My coworkers were very helpful and answered all my questions in a friendly manner. Epic Flight Academy has various departments throughout the campus, and they must work together as one to be successful. The flight school has accounting, human resources, recruiting, admissions, housing, aircraft ground support, aircraft maintenance, dispatch, scheduling, records, executive, flight instruction, safety, marketing, training management, and course leadership. I got to assist with overall flight school improvement proposals and created a presentation for the executives. I was encouraged to share my perspective.
The most important lesson I learned from my summer internship at Epic is that communication is the key to be successful. The summer flew by while I was absorbing new information and learning how to adapt in the workplace. I was fortunate enough to work briefly with all the departments. The evaluation I received from the officials was extremely encouraging and motivating to be more dedicated to my responsibilities. The major take-away I have learned in this internship is that being an adult and working full-time offers a completely different mindset. Similar to college assignments, the work assignments have due dates to meet, but unlike college you have a set amount of time in the office to accomplish them. I improved at time management.
I commuted between New Smyrna Beach and Daytona Beach 5 days a week. Each commute took almost an hour and half. I worked 8 hours shifts, five days a week, yet I was stopping by the coffee shop to meet friends that I hadn’t seen in a while due to COVID restrictions. On weekends, I dedicated a day to do the typical chores, such as meal prep, laundry, and household cleaning, yet I was still able to pick up a book to read in the afternoons. Since fall is my thesis semester, I was slowly developing my research whenever I had the energy and spare time. In addition, I decided that no matter what, I would spend my Saturdays at ease. I ended up doing a lot, including salsa dance class, golfing, hiking, kayaking, fishing, cross fit, movies, picnics in the forest, bonfires at the beach, and cooking lessons.
Benefits of My Summer Internship
This summer internship has immensely improved my physical and mental health. I was offered a full-time position upon graduation, which boosted my confidence and motivated me to keep working hard. Being a graduate school student in aeronautics with human factors specialization gave me a strong background to handle projects. My undergraduate degree was in Aeronautics, and I am an instrument-rated private pilot, which helped me to understand the overall flight line culture from a student or consumer perspective. Having a business minor gave me a solid foundation when it comes to understanding the transactions and closing reports. I think all my previous educational experiences at ERAU prepared me to be successful for this internship position.
Overall, I was part of a great team. My colleagues were willing to share their knowledge and open-minded to give me room to make ‘newbie’ mistakes. Being vigilant and teachable helped me to be successful in this internship. Epic Flight Academy is place where co-workers become friends, students become airline pilots, and the time you spend here creates wonderful memories. I will miss the laughs, the hugs, and even the tedious assignments. Take love and stay healthy, until we meet again at a random corner of earth for a cup of coffee.