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Thu, Aug. 22

YC and Guidance Helicopters, Inc. launch partnership

PRESCOTT ­ "If it gets off the ground, I'll fly in it," Yavapai College President James Horton said with a grin as he stepped down from a Robinson R44 helicopter Tuesday morning.

Horton was disembarking from the maiden flight of a partnership between Yavapai College and Guidance Helicopters, Inc., which got off the ground Tuesday and will open to about 15 students this fall.

During a regular meeting after the launch, the Yavapai College Governing Board approved the program curriculum, a one-year helicopter pilot entrepreneurship certificate and a two-year associate of arts degree with ground training and business application.

In August, the college will begin offering certificates and degrees related to helicopters, from pilot training to business skills. Guidance Helicopters will provide ground training and flight instruction, and Yavapai College will provide courses that focus on the business aspects of owning and flying helicopters.

Rick Marcum, director of Yavapai College's Small Business Development Center, said during Tuesday's launch that the partnership between the corporation and the school exemplifies "the classic private-public partnership because it allows the two entities to do this program at virtually no cost to either of them."

John Stonecipher, president of Guidance Helicopters, said Tuesday that many people who earn their helicopter pilot's licenses go on to run their own businesses. John Morgan, dean of Yavapai College's Agribusiness and Science Technology programs, said those people often know how to fly but lack the business skills to be successful business owners.

The new partnership, Morgan said, will allow Guidance Helicopters to produce better overall pilots. Also, it will allow the college to offer another innovative program that will serve the community.

Stonecipher said that because Vietnam pilots are retiring en masse, opportunity abounds for people with helicopter pilot licenses.

From air ambulance to electronic news-gathering, firefighting to law enforcement and tourist trips to the oil industry, the field provides a variety of possibilities.

"There is a large international demand for helicopter pilots," he said.

Guidance Helicopters has been a member of the Small Business Development Center for about eight months, Marcum said. During that time, ideas for a joint venture such as the one that launched Tuesday began to flourish, and Marcum said the program would not have gotten off the ground without Horton's support.

Horton said he believes the partnership will be one of the first in the nation to combine a flight training school with a college offering a business degree.

People who graduate from a flight-training program, Horton said, "really need to know how to run a business."

Stonecipher pointed out that opportunity abounds.

"That's what we're about," Horton said, "is training people for good jobs."

Stonecipher said the Federal Aviation Administration has certified Guidance Helicopters as a flight school and, that 97 percent of its graduates enter into the helicopter industry. While the organization currently works out of the Prescott Airport, Stonecipher is looking to relocate, possibly in Chino Valley or Prescott Valley.

Contact the reporter at hdartt@prescottaz.com

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