May/June 2015 Aviation for Women 19
gional airline industry—the pilot shortage. In fact, it illustrates
one of the reasons Cape Air is regarded as so innovative.
The issue predates her presidency and has been an ongoing
problem in the industry for decades. But Linda was instrumental in developing a career path for new pilots that is now
being copied by others.
Today, three issues face up-and-coming pilots—the high
cost of their education coupled with the low remuneration at
regionals and the need to build an unprecedented 1,500 hours
to gain the right seat of a regional aircraft. Long before the
Colgan accident in 2009, Cape Air was partnering with aviation universities on behalf of the pilots and the industry by establishing its unique Gateway program.
While the rest of the world was criticizing the regional airline industry, testimony before the National Transportation
Safety Board revealed just how well the industry looked after safety and provided for pilot training. The industry’s good
works fell on deaf ears but for those few who were listening,
Cape Air provided a lesson in turning a challenge into an opportunity.
The airline first partnered with the University of North Da-
kota, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and
JetBlue, one of its commercial partners, to create
the JetBlue University Gateway Program, which
has since been judged the “gold standard” in
pathway programs. The program now includes
seven universities including Bridgewater State in
Massachusetts and the Inter-American University
in Puerto Rico.
Students gain internships with Cape Air, not
pushing paper, but helping to develop and execute
strategies and policies that truly contributed to
company success. After graduation they are guaranteed an interview with Cape Air for the right
seat and, if hired, the opportunity to build time
while being paid—not as an instructor pilot but as
a first officer. After eight years or 3,000 hours they
are guaranteed an interview with JetBlue.
“We have a unique model,” Linda said. “Our
new pilots fly our Cessna 402s as a first officer,
which is not a required position in our Part 135
operation. However, we use that right seat to
train and our FOs build time. They get real-time
experience. They are part of a great organization.
They are on our seniority list, all building time
they don’t have to pay for. Then in the future,
there could be an opportunity to get a position
at JetBlue. We’ve had 20 pilots that have success-
fully gone through the program who are sitting
in the right seat at JetBlue. We have 200 in the
program now and have expanded our university
When asked the advice she would give young
women interested in an airline career, it was famil-
iar territory since she has always mentored others.
“My first piece of advice is to find a good mentor or
mentors, someone you look up to, trust, and admire,” she said.
“Then be willing to accept constructive feedback. I’ve found
that often people get defensive when they receive feedback.
But they have to understand feedback is a way to grow and develop. It is an opportunity to develop themselves.
“When I mentor young women I tell them to stop vying for
something that is not right in front of them,” she continued.
“Instead, they want to be in a position to really make a differ-
ence whether in HR, operations, overseeing administrative
departments, or as president of the organization.”
Linda’s advice is a roadmap for success. Be passionate. Get
to know colleagues and volunteer for projects as part of a
team. Become a valued member of that team. Develop a skill
set that includes becoming a team builder and collaborative
partner. Be a good listener. Don’t see challenges, see opportu-
nities and work with others to figure out the best outcome. All
that is good advice for anyone—it’s how Linda Markham got
where she is today. ✈
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Kathryn B. Creedy, WAI 61288, is a freelance aviation and
adoption writer and president of Communications Strategies.
was a keynote
speaker at the
Women in Aviation Conference in
Florida last year.