Getting to know Mike Suckow
Mike Suckow, clinical associate professor and assistant department head in the Department of Aviation Technology, came to Purdue in July 2001. His main responsibility at that time was to serve as a captain on turbine flight operations (TFO) aircraft. As the number of TFO flights have decreased, Suckow’s duties on the administrative side have increased, including coordinating the purchase of a new fleet of airplanes and working with industry to build opportunities for aviation students. He previously worked for 20 years in the regional airline industry as a pilot, senior director, and vice president of operations. He has more than 8,000 hours of flight time.
On teaching: I teach students how to fly and operate within the air traffic system. I have a student co-pilot with me on every trip. They get to experience high-density airports and maneuver within the aviation ecosystem. It is very experiential; the airplane is the best classroom there is. I have a great view and 100 percent of the student’s attention, and they have 100 percent of mine. I also lecture in the undergraduate and graduate aviation management programs.
On developing opportunities for students: We just signed a flow-through agreement with Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA) and Delta Air Lines that is very progressive for the industry. Once a student has completed 60 credit hours and successfully accomplished a series of tests, they are eligible to sign on to the program. If they maintain their GPA and have a recommendation from both a professor and an instructor-pilot, when they graduate they will be assigned a class date with ASA. When Delta is hiring, they have committed to reach into ASA’s ranks seeking Purdue graduates. We announced this to the students Dec. 1, generating excitement, enthusiasm and optimism.
On the new fleet acquisition: It took three years, from start to finish. I worked with faculty to understand their needs, worked with administration to understand financial limitations, and worked with students to understand their desires and expectations to prepare them for the future. We transitioned the entire fleet with 16 new airplanes, five advanced training devices and a new jet in that three-year period. We have one year of operations under our belts. It’s been a fabulous transition. The professional staff and maintenance technicians have demonstrated tremendous support and commitment. The flight instructors and students have embraced the new technology. The overall response has been very, very positive. When the students saw the changes to the simulation area, they knew something big was happening.
We are starting to communicate with industry about our enhanced training. We’re the only collegiate program in the country that has a very light jet embedded in the curriculum. In AT10100 (Gateway to Aviation Technology), all first-year aviation students get to fly the jet for 15 minutes. The feedback from parents and students has been affirming. Students have been telling their parents that it is the most awesome thing they’ve done in their lives, and the parents are taking the time to share these comments with faculty.
On future of the global industry: Just like the American aviation industry was emerging and growing with technological changes 40 years ago, we are witnessing a similar phenomenon now on a global scale. Consequently, there are numerous opportunities for students to engage with the aviation industry all around the world. Aviation Technology has connections in the Middle East, China, and Africa among other places. The infrastructure to support this global expansion of new technology is lagging, so we’re being asked to help collegiate aviation programs around the world. For example, we are opening doors for our students to be instructors at Chinese aviation universities. On campus, faculty and student research projects focus on safety management, instructional development, and system performance. In addition, there is awesome research potential with our sister departments utilizing the data capture resources we have in each aircraft.
Outside of Purdue: I focus on fun and adventures with my family and friends. I read quite a bit. And, even though my job entails a lot of travel, since my wife enjoys traveling too, we take pleasure in exploring new places. But, I let someone else do the flying for a change.