Reprinted with Permission of Molly McMillin from The Wichita Eagle
Graduates of a growing Dodge City Community College helicopter flight instructor program are finding work in the helicopter industry.
“All of our graduates are employed,” said Anthony Lyons, the college’s vice president of community and industry relations. “And that’s the way we intend to keep it.”
Demand for pilots is growing.
Many commercial helicopter pilots today were pilots during the Vietnam War. They’re now retiring or no longer have medical certificates that allow them to fly, Lyons said.
“We’re going to place ... more than our share in the industry,” Lyons said of the Dodge City graduates.
DCCC also operates outreach campuses in Salina, Arizona and Utah.
The college provides the academic part of the program and contracts with Universal Helicopters, based in Arizona, to provide the flight training.
Students can earn seven pilot ratings during the first two years in the program, Lyons said, including private, instrument, commercial, certified flight instructor, certified flight instructor instrument, turbine transition and night vision goggle ratings.
“They are moving at a pretty fast clip,” Lyons said.
Universal Helicopters hires 100 percent of the graduates as part-time flight instructors in the program while they complete their bachelor degrees at Kansas State University - Salina or Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona.
As flight instructors, they accumulate the 1,000 hours of flight time needed to be hired as commercial helicopter pilots.
They’re finding work with oil rigs, medical evacuation operations or with other companies, Lyons said.