David Hoebelheinrich will complete a flight operations internship with Southwest Airlines this summer.
By the time David Hoebelheinrich completed his internship with United Airlines last spring, he had received a behind-the-scenes look at a merger with Continental, experienced the inner workings of corporate headquarters in Chicago and held the controls in a Boeing 737 simulator.
Aside from the professional development and networking opportunities, the unpaid internship offered one other unique perk – space-available first class travel for him and his family.
“I worked 10-hour days Monday through Thursday,” said Hoebelheinrich, a senior Aviation Management major with a minor in Supply Chain Management. “Then I would travel the world Thursday night through Sunday with other interns or my family.”
By the end of his five-month experience, Hoebelheinrich had logged 83 flights and approximately 134,000 miles while collecting passport stamps in Australia, Great Britain, Guam, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain and various locations in Central America and the Caribbean. The experiences merely confirmed what Hoebelheinrich has known for quite some time.
“I was just born knowing that this is what I’m supposed to do and where I’m supposed to be,” he said. “I knew I wanted to be a pilot from Day One.”
Hoebelheinrich didn’t immediately know where the formative stages of that process would take, place, however. Born in Los Angeles, he did most of his growing up in Minneapolis and earned his basic pilot’s license before graduating from high school there. If not for his mother’s encouragement, he might not have filed a flight plan that included Auburn University’s College of Business. She encouraged him to live outside of his natural comfort zone, to experience an unfamiliar culture.
“I’d never been to Alabama,” said Hoebelheinrich, who earned an Academic Heritage Scholarship from the university. “She said it was worth the visit, and it was one of those beautiful Auburn days that could not have been any better – perfect tour guide, blue and orange sunset. I was sold immediately.”
Hoebelheinrich has certainly made the most of his Auburn experience, working as a certified flight instructor and competing with the War Eagle Flying Team. He was recently selected as one of three recipients nationwide of a $3,000 Regional Airline Association 2013 Scholarship. He has also earned the Guy F. Hill Memorial Scholarship from the College of Business and the Captain Jason Dahl Scholarship, whose namesake was captain of United Flight 93 on 9/11.
This summer, Hoebelheinrich will complete a flight operations internship with Southwest Airlines in Dallas. He looks forward to building on his experience with United, which enabled him to learn from a flight manager, business manager and chief pilot and gain time in a 737 simulator.
“It was a lot to handle at first,” Hoebelheinrich said of the simulator training, which involved 4-hour training stints bookended by 2-hour briefings over the course of two weeks. “There’s a lot going on. It was harder than almost anything we’d done before, memorizing checklist flows and getting all of the basic things down before we got in there. We had to make our simulator sessions useful.
“It was my first jet experience.”
It won’t be his last.
Hoebelheinrich may eventually gravitate toward flight operations, but he looks forward to logging plenty of cockpit hours after graduation.
“I know I’m going to fly first,” he said. “I want to have the pilot lifestyle for a little while.
"I know I want to see the world.”
After his experience last spring, it shouldn’t take him too long to see the rest of it.