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USU Begins Rotorcraft Bachelor's Program for Future Helicopter Pilots

Thursday, Sep. 04, 2014

helicopter used in new USU program

Utah State University's aviation program now offers helicopter pilot training with the addition of a rotorcraft emphasis to its already-established professional pilot bachelor’s degree program.

helicopter used in new USU helicopter pilot training program

USU's undergraduate program is among a handful in the nation.

Utah State University’s aviation program now offers helicopter pilot training with the addition of a rotorcraft emphasis to its already-established professional pilot bachelor’s degree program. 

According to Kaylee Roholt, academic advisor for the aviation program, the creation of a helicopter emphasis has been in the works for several years, making USU’s bachelor’s level program one of a handful in the nation.

“There is a high demand for helicopter pilots in the aviation industry, especially those with skills acquired in a university setting,” Roholt said. “USU has responded to that need and is excited to welcome its first class of students.”

Although flight training differs between rotor- and fixed-wing aircraft, the majority of professional pilot classes will apply to students in both emphases, Roholt said. 

To ensure students in the helicopter emphasis receive exceptional training, USU aviation has partnered with Mountain Ridge Helicopters to offer helicopter-specific courses. Professionals at Mountain Ridge will provide flight instruction and teach upper-division flight classes.

“We have worked with Mountain Ridge Helicopters for more than five years in cooperative projects,” said Aaron Dyches, chief flight instructor at USU. “We have found them to be a professional training school with industry relationships that will greatly assist our graduates.”

Megan Harris, school director for Mountain Ridge Helicopters, said the school’s location and teaching philosophy challenges students to become exceptional pilots.

“Ninety percent of helicopter training schools are at sea level,” Harris said. “Through mountain training, our students gain a thorough sense of power management and they also learn how to read the terrain and maneuver at high altitudes.”

At Mountain Ridge, beginning students will learn to fly small, single-engine Robinson R22 helicopters and will complete their flight training while taking additional courses at USU.

“R22s are one of the most difficult helicopters to fly in the mountains.” Harris said. “The idea is, once our students train in the Robinson helicopter they will be able to fly most other helicopters.”

More advanced students will spend time training in the school’s larger helicopter, the Robinson R44 and the FLYIT helicopter simulator.

Dyches said students who complete the rotorcraft degree will be entering a rapidly expanding industry.

“The job market is rich and opportunities for careers are plentiful right now,” Dyches said. “Helicopters are becoming a predominant tool and their versatility cannot be matched by any other machine in the air or on the ground.”

More information about USU’s new helicopter program can be found online or call (435) 797-1795.

Contact: Kaylee Roholt, (435)797-1795,

Writer: Dawn Otterby, CAAS

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