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DSU partners with firm to offer region’s first helicopter flight degree

DSUHorizonHelicopterSigninghandshakeNEWARK — Beginning in the fall, Delaware State University will offer helicopter pilot training in its aviation program, but it doesn’t need to buy any helicopters to make it happen.

The university is partnering with a Newark business, Horizon Helicopters, to offer professional helicopter pilot certification. It is the only collegiate program of its kind in the region, university officials said Monday.

“For years, we’ve received dozens of calls every day asking if we offer this kind of program,” said DSU aviation program director Stephen Speed. “Now, we can finally say, ‘Yes.’ ”

The agreement with Horizon Helicopters was signed Monday at the company’s facility on Sunset Lake Road. The new training will be an option available to students enrolled as aviation majors, a four-year bachelor of science degree. DSU has offered an aviation program since 1988, but it only used fixed-wing aircraft.

The decision to partner with a private business allows DSU to offer the new program without the immediate need to buy helicopters or hire staff, said Amir Mohammadi, university treasurer and executive vice president for finance. Looking ahead, the university is looking to upgrade its aging fleet of fixed-wing aircraft over the next few years, he said.

Fewer than 10 students are expected to enroll in the first year, but DSU officials say they expect that to grow over the next five years.

The university will continue to provide on-the-ground instruction while Horizon staff will give in-the-air training. Student fees will be used to pay Horizon for staff and the use of two helicopters.

The partnership was three years in the making, university officials said, because they had to secure federal approval to offer the new training.

Graduates receiving a helicopter certification will be able to fly for private companies. That kind of work includes charter flights and construction company services, Speed said. Passenger transport requires additional certification, he said.

Speed said the university would be supplying personnel for an industry that is expected to grow in the near future. The university decided to offer the new training after its research showed student interest and a lack of available programs.

The university intends to attract military veterans to the program. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides information on eligible flight programs and other approved education providers at www.gibill.va.gov.

Horizon Helicopters co-owner Harry Griffith said he expects the need for certified pilots to grow. His company provides such services as flight training, construction and photography.

“Business has been good. Even when all these other businesses have had trouble, we never had that,” Griffith said. “I don’t know why it is. I wish I did. I’d jar it and save it up.”

More information about the DSU aviation program is available by calling 857-6710.

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