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Captains courageous

Eric Poole and Lyle Parker, exceptional alums, aviators and airline professionals, inducted into UND Aerospace Hall of Fame

Bob Kraus, dean of UND Aerospace (left), and Beth Bjerke, associate dean (right), stand with the newest inductees in the UND Aerospace Hall of Fame, Capts. Lyle Parker (’70) and Eric Poole (’90). Photo by Arjun Jagada/UND Aerospace.

On Friday, Sept. 30, the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences added two more distinguished alumni to the UND Aerospace Hall of Fame.

Since 2018, the College has annually recognized the accomplishments and contributions of UND’s outstanding alumni from the Aerospace programs. Each inductee is recognized with a plaque and honored at a ceremony hosted on the UND campus.

Airline Captains Lyle Parker and Eric Poole were selected for the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022.

“It gives us great pleasure to recognize these outstanding Aerospace alumni,” said Bob Kraus, dean of UND Aerospace. “Their dedication and commitment to the aviation industry across their careers serve as a guiding light for our program and today’s students.”

Lyle Parker ‘70

Lyle Parker

Initially, Lyle Parker’s goal was to study engineering so that he could design and develop aircraft, but Parker’s timing at UND coincided with the very beginnings of the aviation program. Parker quickly switched his focus to a business degree and took advantage of every aviation course being offered by John Odegard, the founding chairman of what was then the UND Department of Aviation.

Parker also joined the Air Force ROTC detachment at UND, and upon his graduation with a degree in public administration in 1970, he commissioned into the U.S. Air Force, where he began his impressive aviation career.

Parker served as a U.S. Air Force officer and aviator from 1970 to 1993, initially as a weapons systems officer in the F-4 Phantom, then transitioning to the Montana Air National Guard as an F-106 Delta Dart pilot. He retired from military service as Headquarters Director of Operations.

During his military service, Parker set a world record while flying supersonic and launching an unguided Genie AIR-2 missile that denotated just seven feet from its target at a closure rate of 4,070 miles per hour.

Parker’s civilian career started on the flight deck at United Airlines from 1977 and then transitioned to Alaska Airlines in 1981, when that airline was small but growing.

In the early 1990s, Capt. Parker reconnected with John Odegard while doing a college visit with his oldest son, Bryan. In the decades that followed, Parker worked closely with the leadership at UND Aerospace and the Aerospace Foundation to expand the organizations’ outreach and offerings. An interesting example of bringing partnerships together was when Parker was leading the Alaska Airlines MD-80 operations to the Russian Far East. Seeing a need for better air traffic services, he helped establish the connections that brought Russian air traffic controllers to UND for ATC training.

In the late 1990s, Parker joined forces with another UND Aerospace Hall of Fame Inductee, LaMar Haugaard, to bring the leadership of the Alaska Air Group (Horizon Air and Alaska Airlines) to campus to learn about our program and meet our students. Due to these efforts, we now have hundreds of UND alumni flying on the West coast for these carriers, including Lyle’s two sons, Bryan and Mike, and daughter-in-law, Andrea.

Eric Poole ‘90

Eric Poole

Excelling on the track and in football in high school, Eric Poole was recruited to UND to play football, which he did very successfully as a starting defensive back and three-year letter winner for the team. Although he started as a biology major, his roommate encouraged him to switch to the aviation program. Juggling football and aviation was not an easy task and often involved very long days, stretching from early morning flights to football practice and studying after school. But it did leave time for Poole to meet his wife, Mary, a psychology major at UND.

Poole graduated in 1990 in Aeronautical Studies with a minor in Space Studies.

Upon graduation, Poole became UND’s first black flight instructor. In this role, he soon began mentoring and instructing other students that came after him as well as volunteering as an adviser for the Black Student Union

Poole went on to serve in the U.S. Navy as an operations and test control officer from 1994 to 2000. During that time, he also worked as a physics and football coach at the Naval Academy Preparatory School.

Following his military service, Poole flew for Midwest Express Connect (Skyways) from 2000 to 2005 before switching to a relatively new carrier, JetBlue. Early in his career at JetBlue, Poole was tasked with developing a structured pathway program from college to the airline. He was essentially told to “Run with it,” which he did, and at a very fast pace: He structured the JetBlue Gateway program around solid mentoring, similar to what he received throughout his career, and connected experiences.

The program was UND’s first structured pathway for students at a time when the airlines were not short of pilots.

Not only did Poole mentor students at UND, he also served as JetBlue’s Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) liaison for many years, and was instrumental in setting up and running a number of OBAP Aerospace Career Education (ACE) Academy camps throughout New York and Florida with the backing of the JetBlue Foundation. These are camps aimed at inspiring the next generation of aerospace professionals. Poole and other UND alums were instrumental in helping and encouraging UND students to form a student chapter of OBAP on the UND campus. Poole has also supported our students financially through the Building Dreams Scholarship, which is given to active members of the UND OBAP Chapter.

Poole still flies for JetBlue as an A320/321 Captain and serves as their Newark Base Chief Pilot.

Poole will also be the keynote speaker at UND Aerospace’s upcoming “Faces of the Industry: Discussions in Aviation Diversity” event at 2 p.m. on Oct. 11 in the Memorial Union Ballroom. The event is put on by UND Aerospace student organizations, and all are invited to attend.