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Big Bend starts new pilot program

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Posted: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 4:00 pm | Updated: 6:59 pm, Mon Feb 16, 2015.

MOSES LAKE - Big Bend Community College and Inland Helicopters of Spokane have partnered to train a new generation of helicopter pilots.

The new pilot training program begins in January.

Students in the helicopter pilot program will be enrolled as Big Bend students, said Big Bend Flight Instructor John Swedburg.

"Inland Helicopters will recruit for us, and they have Veteran's Administration and federal financial aid funding options to help students," he said.

Students can graduate with an Associate of Applied Science Degree and FAA certificates including Private, Instrument, Commercial, and Certified Flight Instructor.

Flight instruction and two helicopters will be provided by Inland Helicopters at Grant County International Airport. The operating costs for helicopters are more than the school's airplanes, said Doug Sly, Big Bend's interim public information officer.

"That's one of the reasons it's hard for us to get into it on our own, so it's a great partnership," he said.

Big Bend will provide instruction in ground school, meteorology, technical writing and math - the same classes taken by students enrolled in Big Bend's Commercial Pilot Program, which Big Bend has had since 1965.

Inland Helicopters will develop additional classroom instruction to teach curriculum specific to helicopters, said David Valenti of Inland Helicopters.

"Aerodynamics and weight and balance are different for helicopters than for airplanes, for instance," he said.

"Big Bend was very receptive and enthusiastic in working with us," Valenti added. "Their instructors measure their flight time experience in the thousands of hours, so they know what they are doing."

National statistics show an improving job market for helicopter pilots as current pilots retire in coming years and create a job shortage, said Valenti.

"This is another example of the type of public/private partnerships we must establish to create new programs in today's economy," said Big Bend President Bill Bonaudi.

The partnership opens a new range of careers for Big Bend aviation students, including emergency medical services, power line patrol, tourism, law enforcement, fire fighting, logging, aerial photography, agriculture, border patrol,  fish and wildlife counts, and news gathering.

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