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Aviation Students Visit United Airlines and O’Hare International Airport

Aviation students in front of Willis Tower

Nine student members of the recently formed Aviation Collegiate Education (ACE) Club, a student organization which focuses on careers in the airline industry, recently participated in an exclusive tour of United Airlines and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. The group, currently in just its second year of existence, is one of several similar groups nationwide established by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) to bridge the gap between classrooms and aviation careers. EKU was not the only school that participated in the experience either. Students from both Parks College in St. Louis and Lewis University in Romeoville, IL also joined in on the trip and gave the Eastern students a great networking opportunity in addition to the tour itself.

“There is so much more to aviation than flying,” said Brian Karlow, a junior Professional Flight major and president of the ACE Club. “It was incredible to see the level of detail United takes into consideration when planning their operations.” Karlow came to EKU from the Chicago area and jumped at the chance to plan the trip. “This trip proved that while this group is new, we are striving to find new ways to get students involved.”

Funding for the trip was secured through a grant from the EKU Student Government Association (SGA) according to the group’s treasurer, Daniel Turner (Shepherdsville). “We are extremely grateful to ALPA and the EKU SGA for making this prestigious trip possible.”

Aviation students with United Airlines plane Students began their visit at O’Hare International Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world and primary hub for United Airlines. Among the stops on the airport portion of the visit were a ramp tower which coordinates aircraft movement on the ground, baggage system, airline dispatch offices and briefing spaces, aircraft maintenance facility, and one of United’s Boeing 777 aircraft. Throughout the trip, students also had the chance to interact with a wide array of personnel, which according to the club’s industry liaison Drew Owen, was just as important as the tour itself.

“We were given a very rare opportunity to see inside the operations of United Airlines,” Owen said. “EKU is very lucky, but this is the kind of opportunity that ALPA and the ACE Club can provide. We are thrilled at the response from EKU students so far and want to keep the momentum going.” In addition to serving as the club’s liaison, Owen currently works as a First Officer at Spirit Airlines on the Airbus A-320 and is a regular on campus for many of the club’s events throughout the year.

The second part of the tour took students to downtown Chicago and the famous Willis Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world and home to United’s corporate headquarters. Inside, the group was given exclusive access to the airline’s operations center which is responsible for the company’s fleet of aircraft as they operate around the world. The group also toured the chief pilots’ offices which are located at the building.

Even some of the Aviation Program’s newest students were among those on the trip and agreed that the experience wasAviation students with aircraft maintenance much more than just a tour. “Joining the ACE Club and other student organizations has introduced me to awesome new friends,” said Landen Easley, a freshman from Stamping Ground who started at EKU this semester. One of his classmates, Nicholas Taylor (Hodgenville) also went on the trip and thinks every student should look for ways to get more involved. “I highly recommend joining all of the aviation student organizations. I have already had so many opportunities.”

Other students participating on the trip included Adam Ackermann (Louisville), Jacob Barnes (Taylorsville), Jonathan Giardina (Hurricane, WV), and Seth Hylton (Somorset). 

For more information on the ALPA ACE Club or EKU Aviation visit

Published on November 19, 2018

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