Most students don’t go swimming in another country and leave with an internship.
Oklahoma State student Gavin Abendschein was offered the opportunity as a sophomore to move across the country on a whim when he found himself sitting next to BPS principal Brian Scalise. Aviation and captain of Spirit Airlines.
“I try to network with as many people as possible because I want to hear their story,” Abendschein said. “I sat next to (Scalise) in Panama while on vacation with my mom and he happened to be a pilot too. We started talking and hanging out every day. We did things like have lunch together and sit by the pool to get to know each other.
After hanging out together for a few days, Abendschein, a major commercial pilot, was told that if he could get his instrument rating, an oral exam, and a flight test to get a license from the Federal Aviation Administration , Scalise would offer him a summer internship at his aviation company in Destin, Florida.
Having some reservations about Scalise’s recent encounter, Abendschein wasn’t sure the offer would materialize.
“It seemed almost too good to be true,” Abendschein said. “I ended up researching his background and company while having some backup options for the upcoming summer in case this opportunity fails.”
While vacationing with his mother, Denise Kent, Abendschein asked her for advice. Kent was hesitant about his son accepting an internship from someone he had met in another country.
During the holidays, Kent was able to spend time getting to know Scalise. She found the opportunity for Abendschein to be something he couldn’t turn down.
“I’m usually a pretty good judge of character and he seemed like a really nice guy,” Kent said. “I remained friends with Brian and even went to visit him and his daughter during Gavin’s internship. Gavin has always been a responsible person, so I knew he could handle himself personally and professionally in this job.
Before accepting the offer, Abendschein knew that Oklahoma State University did not accept training or flight hours earned outside of school. His flight credits would not be assessed and he had to make the decision to change his major to Aviation Management and no longer be part of the OSU flight program.
Getting advice from other students in his major, Abendschein worked with Jake Hickox, an OSU student professional pilot who helped him study for his upcoming tests. Hickox worked with him several times before his Federal Aviation Administration exam.
“Almost every day before the check, I would meet with (Abendschein) to go over interview questions, discuss maintenance logs, and go over documents that might be on the exam,” Hickox said. “Getting that experience is important in your flying career, so I encouraged him to switch specialties and take on the new job. Being able to sit right in a private jet, read over clearances and follow plans flying alongside professional pilots, that’s exactly what he’s going to do in airlines.
After consideration, Abendschein accepted the internship. Abendschein didn’t want to pass up this experience because it can be difficult for someone who has logged few flying hours to fly in jets. He started his instrument license at the time of the offer. He set a goal to do it by May and finished it on May 1.
Abendschein arrived in Florida in mid-May and began his internship. “The first day of my internship was quite hectic,” Abendschein said. “I’m a middle schooler, so I used to have my own sleep schedule. I had to get up early and leave right away for a trip to Florida. I got a call in the morning saying that I was going to have to take a few passengers to the Florida Keys, down to Miami and back to Destin.
Abendschein had different tasks throughout the internship. He was a pilot and co-pilot on jet and turboprop aircraft for all the flights in which he was to participate. When he wasn’t flying, he made sure planes were detailed, GPS equipment was up to date, and worked on legal company documentation, such as leases for customers to rent the planes.
Abendschein’s colleague, Nathan Hansen, a pilot for BPS Aviation, made several trips with Abendschein where he performed the duties of a second-in-command pilot. On air travels together, Abendschein helped prepare the plane with Hansen and take care of the passengers.
“As the pilot of a high-performance passenger jet, flying the Premier jet is unique because only one pilot can fly it, which means you plan the flight, coordinate fuel for transportation, hotel rooms , drinks for the passengers, preparing the cabin and cleaning up the jet after the flight,” Hansen said. “It’s a demanding and challenging type of flying, but it’s also extremely rewarding and fun. We have flown together on trips to Colorado Springs, Aspen, Vail, Houston and shorter trips to Florida and the Southeastern United States. Having (Abendschein) help with these things has been beneficial and has greatly improved the passenger experience at minimal cost to them. Some clients liked to have him with them and paid for his food and hotel on multi-day trips.
During the summer, Hickox visited Abendschein on one of his plane trips to Fort Worth. Hickox said he drove to the airport and Abendschein showed him his plane, what everything did, and all the features on the outside of the plane.
“On the first jet (Abendschein) flew, one of the windows is painted on and not a real window to give the illusion that the jet is bigger than it is,” Hickox said. “He showed me the checkpoints he goes through before the flight to ensure customer safety and the lounge he can use between flights.”
Throughout the internship, Abendschein met with Associate Professor Matt Vance, who helped guide him and recommended that he apply for college credit for the internship. Abendschein was able to earn nine credit hours for completing the internship.
Vance met with Gavin several times about flight training and other potential internship opportunities. With OSU approving his internship and applying his class credits, he is able to return to OSU with real-world experience and more credit hours.
“(Abendschein’s) professional career exposure will hopefully prompt a faster graduation and opened up his awareness of the attributes and characteristics of quality people,” Vance said. “He’s already better equipped to find a company that exudes aviation integrity and matches his personality. Both are necessary for long-term job stability, productivity, and career happiness. »
Thanks to his resources, Abendschein was able to be mentored throughout the summer and track his degree through his communication with Vance.
“I really admire (Vance) and appreciate his opinion because he’s been in aviation for so long and knows what he’s doing,” Abendschein said. “He gave me his professional vision and fully supported me throughout the summer.”
The internship changed Abendschein’s career path. Being able to log flight hours on private jets is necessary for pilots and can be a difficult experience to obtain for people who have only logged 400 flight hours. Abendschein said the average person is unable to start logging flight time until they have completed at least 1,000 flight hours.
After spending the summer in Florida, Abendschein asked his mother if he could extend the internship until the semester. The downside was that Abendschein had to change his courses to ones he could take online. After speaking with Abendschein’s academic advisor and director of OSU’s flight program, Kent agreed that this would be a great opportunity for his son and his career path. The internship ended up being extended through the fall 2021 semester, and Abendschein completed the semester online from Florida.
Abendschein said being away from friends and in-person classes all semester was tough, but he’s matured as an adult with real life experiences and responsibilities. Kent said she was extremely proud of her son for crossing the country alone as a young adult.
“I was happy once we decided he would stay longer at his internship because the real-world insights and lessons are invaluable,” Kent said. “He continued to gain many flying hours and useful information through his internship. We’re lucky to live in a time where we can learn almost anything from anywhere, so we changed its major and its courses.
Being able to watch his son grow through this experience, Kent enjoyed watching his son use his natural ability to connect with people and learn life lessons. She said watching Abendschein struggle and grow with each lesson gave her a solid foundation of experience to use throughout her life.
The job wasn’t all glamorous. Abendschein knew how to handle difficult situations and learned to interact with pilots at work as well as with customers. Abendschein had to learn to working with clients who are not always friendly.
“Not only was I overwhelmed with the flight part, but my other duties included loading luggage, setting up rental cars and making sure the customer’s trip was worth it,” Abendschein said. “Once our client’s flight to Colorado Springs was grounded and we had to go buy our two clients quesadillas on the plane because they told us they wanted quesadillas.”
Hansen said Abendschein’s performance in these situations was outstanding. Abendschein approached situations with professionalism, attention to detail, and interpersonal skills. For a pilot with limited experience, Abendschein’s radio presence and checklist discipline impressed Hansen. Hansen said the amount of work Abendschein has put into learning the skills required of a pilot through many hours of studying and using flight simulations will contribute to his future success.
“I hope he learned that only a small part of your success depends on your technical skills and the knowledge you pick up in college,” Hansen said. “It’s just the minimum required to get you into the game. Once you get there, your level of self-awareness and self-control, your problem-solving skills, and the way you deal with people and influence others will determine your success.
The experience will be something Abendschein said he will treasure for many years. Abendschein knows that taking first-hand risks can be rewarding. Abendschein was able to build relationships with people who could help him throughout his career.
“The most unexpected part of the trip was how much I ended up flying,” Abendschein said. “I didn’t expect to fly so much, but I’m glad I did. Part of the reason I took this job was to gain some industry experience. I gained this experience and much more. I faced situations that weren’t planned, I flew in different places and I met new people while dealing with real problems that I encountered.
Beginning his spring 2022 semester with a new perspective, Abendschein returned to Stillwater. He plans to return to Destin next summer to continue his internship at BPS Aviation.