A student from the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources at West Virginia University is slated to spend the summer participating in a highly competitive internship at Southwest Airline headquarters in Dallas, Texas.
After participating in a stringent four-month interview process, Keith Heisler, an industrial engineering student from Oxford, Pennsylvania, was selected for one of only two open positions as an Innovation Intern at SWA, which received more than 42,000 applications for their 2018 summer internship program.
As a member of the airlines’ innovation department, Heisler will be working in an incubator-type environment with business, engineering and design professionals to create and test new innovations in airport and airplane technology. He will also work across all sectors of the business to participate in the full innovation process, which includes product development, industry analysis and vendor and supplier management.
“This department is extremely important because it is an internal reinvestment that keeps SWA at the cutting edge of a very competitive industry,” said Heisler. “Most of the projects that are done within this department are very confidential. This opportunity will allow me to have full access to each sector of the business, including more than 700 Boeing 737 airplanes at Dallas Love Field, to use as test platforms for new ventures and ideas that come from our team.”
Aviation has been an integral part of Heisler’s life ever since the moment he took his first flight in a small four-seat Cessna airplane at a local airshow at age 14. The experience sparked his passion for flying and motivated him to pursue becoming a certified pilot.
“From that point on I knew I wanted to be involved with aviation for the rest of my life,” said Heisler. “I started doing everything I could to fund my flight training. I worked as a lineman at our local airport through high school, cut grass, plowed snow and washed airplanes to support this endeavor.”
After receiving several generous scholarships from local flying clubs, Heisler’s hard work paid off as he was able to obtain his private pilot certification when he was just 17 years old. Reaching this achievement encouraged him to pursue his passion on a professional level at WVU.
“The Statler College encourages students to be well rounded
and pursue their interests no matter the field,” said Heisler. ”As a student at
WVU I have had the amazing opportunity to work for GE Aviation for the past two
summers and I continue to fly as much as I can. Landing the internship with SWA
is another huge step in my aviation journey and I am looking forward to having
the opportunity to build something new that could potentially change the way we
Heisler will be working 40 hours a week during his internship, however, the experience will not be all work and no play. One of the main perks he will receive during the 12-week program is free flight privileges to all SWA destinations, which he plans to take full advantage of.
“I want to travel to as many destinations as possible,” explained Heisler. “I am hoping to explore national parks throughout Washington, Oregon and Idaho; attend a concert in Boston or Chicago; and make it to Belize to scuba dive in the Great Blue Hole. I am looking forward to a summer full of learning, jet setting and new discoveries.”