Seacoast Helicopters, GBCC partner to offer pilot program
PORTSMOUTH — Great Bay Community College and Seacoast Helicopters have collaborated to offer a new associate’s degree program in aviation technology to meet the growing demands for helicopter pilots.
The two-year integrated program offers students the opportunity to earn a college degree while gaining the skills and certifications required for employment as a professional helicopter pilot. In addition to an associate’s degree in science, each graduating student will earn an FAA professional helicopter certification, which includes ratings as an instrument-rated commercial pilot and certified flight instructor – instrument.
According to Bruce Cultrera, president and CEO of Seacoast Helicopters, this is the first college-based aviation career program in New England and the Northeast. The program appeals to those preparing to enter the workforce or looking for a career change, as well as veterans and military personnel preparing to reenter the civilian world.
“We are excited to work in partnership with Seacoast Helicopters to offer a 2-year program that provides students a gateway to highly sought-after aviation-based occupations,” said GBCC President Will Arvelo. “The collaboration is another example of how GBCC is responding to industry need by crafting a program that leads to high-wage jobs in a critical industry.”
According to New Hampshire and national employment projections, commercial and airline helicopter pilot occupational growth is predicted at 11 percent through 2020.
“The industry is clearly expanding,” Cultrera said. “Entry level helicopter pilots work in a variety of roles, including flight instructors, charter pilots, scenic tour pilots, utility and trauma pilots and we are preparing them for these roles. In addition to the professional pilot career path, the program offers a solid starting place for entry into fields such as airport management, aircraft maintenance, and airport line management.”
Cultrera notes that because many pilots today received training from the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, they are approaching the mandatory retirement age, leaving positions left unfilled.
The program has been approved by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Approval for funding by financial aid including federal scholarships, federal grants and student loans (for those who qualify) as well as Veterans Affairs eligibility approval is in process.
Coursework for the 2-year program is taught at Great Bay Community College at Pease International Tradeport by both GBCC instructors and FAA-certified flight instructors from Seacoast Helicopters, and satisfies the academic requirements for an associate of science degree. Students complete flight training at Seacoast Helicopters, which is on the tradeport. Students will train in new, state-of-the-art Robinson helicopters.
“The fact that the Seacoast Helicopters hangar, training space, aircraft and offices are less than a quarter-mile from the GBCC campus makes the program extremely convenient,” Cultrera said.
According to Cultrera, flight training is conducted in the controlled airspace over the tradeport.
“We train in the Robinson R22 Beta II and R44 Raven II helicopters, which are the most popular training helicopters in the world,” he said. “We also provide FAA-certified flight and ground instructors for primary and advanced flight instruction. In a two-year period, the program takes the student from zero experience to a commercially rated pilot that is ready for their first job with an associate degree in hand.”