- Posted August 16, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Salute to troops
Veterans' Careers Take Off in Helicopters As International Demand Rises
Military personnel are exposed to aviation during their service, especially overseas in areas like Afghanistan. Consequently, many returning veterans acquire the bug to fly helicopters, as rotorcraft are a primary aircraft utilized to transport troops in theater.
The flying bug is not a bad thing for the helicopter industry. It desperately needs more helicopter pilots. The domestic pilot demand front and the international pilot demand front have collided, creating a vacuum in the space that was once filled with skilled, professional helicopter pilots.
On the domestic front, the 70's era Vietnam pilots are retiring at a rapid pace as leading helicopter organizations, like Air Methods, the country's largest Emergency Medical Services helicopter company, will be hiring up to 300 helicopter pilots in 2013. As Dennis McCall of Air Methods said during HELIEXPO 2013, "We have a need for pilots. We are probably going to hire 300 pilots this year (2013)."
On the International front, countries like China are growing at an exponential pace and are acquiring large numbers of aircraft, including a very large amount of helicopters. According to China Daily, "The number of civilian helicopters in China will triple, with as many as 2000 helicopters needed by 2032."
The international rub here is that it takes years to train and develop a qualified, skilled helicopter pilot. So where do countries like China go? You got it: The U.S. China is offering lucrative contracts to experienced helicopter pilots to help meet their country's pilot demands.
Back to those with the helicopter flying bug. How do these Veterans get trained? Many U.S. Military Veterans now enroll into collegiate helicopter pilot school programs using the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits they've earned.
A good example can be found in U.S. Marine Veteran, CJ Schneider III, who started his training at Guidance Aviation of Prescott, Arizona. CJ earned his AAS degree, Associate of Applied Science, Professional Helicopter Pilot, at Yavapai College, a Veterans Administration approved collegiate aviation program. Guidance is the sole provider of helicopter flight training for that collegiate program. Many public-private partnerships between colleges and private training programs exist like this throughout the U.S. The key is that the program is VA approved in order for our U.S. Military Veterans to utilize their Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits for their education and helicopter flight training.
After graduation, CJ was hired by Guidance Aviation as both a flight instructor and student services representative.
August 1st marked the four year anniversary of the Post 9/11 GI Bill. To date, "the VA has issued approximately $30 billion in Post 9/11 GI-Bill benefit payments since its inception in August 2009 and helped nearly 1 million Service members, Veterans, and their families pursue their education.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides comprehensive educational support through tuition, books and housing allowance to people with at least 90 days of total service after September 10, 2001, or people discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days.
Approved training under the Post-9/11 GI Bill includes graduate and undergraduate degrees, vocational and technical training, on-the-job training, flight training, correspondence training, licensing and national testing programs, entrepreneurship training, and tutorial assistance." Quoted Source: VA.gov Press Release
[Photo Credit: Alex Clark, Helicopter Pilot, NorthStar Trekking]