Meet Ted Orris’83, Pilot, Southwest Airlines

As a tenured pilot with Southwest Airlines, Ted Orris’83 has stayed involved with his alma mater. He has been involved in College of Aeronautics and Engineering events, serving as a keynote speaker for Safety Day and was honored at the 2018 Vision 21 Awards Banquet. He grew up in Painesville, Ohio and currently resides in Mount Dora, Florida. Orris credits his uncles and teacher Gretchen Reed, all pilots, as his inspiration to pursue an aviation career. He notes his favorite Kent State memory was the first time he helped a student solo while he worked as a certified flight instructor. One word comes to mind when he talks about his career and Kent State: passion.



How did your experiences at Kent State help you in industry?

While at Kent State, I earned a Bachelor of Science degree and all of the certificates and ratings necessary to secure a position at a regional airline. After I achieved my commercial pilot certificate with instrument and multiengine ratings, I became a certified flight instructor and began teaching flight students at Kent State. I instructed full time after graduation and was able to amass enough flight experience to go directly into an airline job.  The weather in northeast Ohio can sometimes prove to be challenging to students initially, but it also provides incredible real world experience to help sharpen a pilot’s skills.


 Did you feel prepared to enter the workforce after your education at CAE?

Absolutely! My flight training was top-notch and my academic curriculum included a wide variety of relevant courses that included math, physics and aerodynamics as well as aircraft systems and maintenance.  I was well prepared for the technical ground school and flight training courses that were presented by my future employers.


 What does your average workday look like?

A typical schedule at my airline would have a pilot working 12-15 days a month with three or four days of work followed by three or four days off.  Trips can be one to four days long and could have several flights per day where the pilot may be on duty for 8-10 hours.  Most trips at my company start early in the morning and finish mid-afternoon or start in the afternoon and finish in the late evening.  Overnight accommodations are provided by the airline.


What is the most exciting part of being a pilot?

Flying in itself is exciting.  It's fun. It's exhilarating. It's challenging. It's never boring. Even after 38 years! Flying is a science-based art, but there is still a certain magical element to it.  I continue to be amazed at the ability of man to safely propel a pressurized metal tube filled with hundreds of people across the skies at velocities approaching the speed of sound.


What has your greatest professional accomplishment been so far?

I think that it was when I received my Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate along with my first type rating in 1988.  That was shortly after I finished teaching full-time at Kent State.  The ATP is the ultimate goal of any pilot that aspires to fly for an airline, and I was thrilled to don my captain's stripes after serving as a first officer for just one year.


What advice would you give current aeronautics students?

I would advise students to consider how their current actions and decisions may affect their future employment.  Study habits and work ethic are reflected in students' grades and performance reviews which are items that are considered in an employment interview. Participation in extracurricular activities is important as well, especially in a position of responsibility as a club officer or team captain.  Look for opportunities for additional duties at your first aviation job as an instructor, recruiter, check airman or chief pilot as these appointments tend to demonstrate above average capabilities and a willingness to contribute to the success of your organization. Most of all be aware that a single drug or alcohol-related event, such as a DUI, could be a career-ending event.


 What are your thoughts on the Aeronautics Academic Center?

I am thrilled to see the new facility that is taking shape at the airport.  Kent State's flight program enjoys a first-class reputation within the airline industry, and it deserves a first-class facility.


How have Kent State's aeronautics programs evolved since you were a student?

I am impressed with the expansion of programs within CAE to include Air Traffic Control and engineering options.  I toured the new facility on campus last April was and was pleased to see Kent's wind tunnel and several high-tech labs. In September, I was able to get a demonstration flight in one of KSU's newest training planes, a Cessna 172 S-model.  This aircraft was equipped with a Garmin G1000 avionics package which closely approximates the types of flight displays used in most commercial airliners today, and I believe it will help make the transition from trainer to airliner a smooth one.

POSTED: Thursday, December 6, 2018 - 2:22pm
UPDATED: Thursday, December 6, 2018 - 5:39pm