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Guidance Helicopter, Yavapai College offer flight training; targets veterans with G.I. Bill benefits

Guidance Helicopters/Courtesy photo

Guidance Helicopters/Courtesy photo

PRESCOTT - U.S. veterans can now use G.I. Bill benefits to pay for helicopter flight training at Guidance Helicopters.

Guidance Helicopters and Yavapai College have expanded their partnership. For the past four years, Guidance Helicopters has taught helicopter pilot ground school for the college.

Starting in January 2010, Guidance Helicopters will offer flight training as part of a new Associate of Applied Science Professional Pilot-Helicopter Degree Program. The two-year program will provide students with the necessary skills and Federal Aviation Administration certificates to gain employment as commercial helicopter pilots or flight instructors.

With the new post-9-11 G.I. Bill, eligible veterans will have tuition, flight fees, books and cost of living expenses completely covered by their veteran's benefits.

In the past, YC tuition covered only ground training, not flight training.

Traditional college students are eligible to apply for federal financial aid to cover the entire degree program and flight fee costs.

According to Guidance Helicopters Director of Training John Johnson, the new G.I. Bill is the "biggest and best education benefit the government has offered vets."

The G.I. Bill will cover all expenses for as long as 36 months, more than enough time to complete the program.

Guidance Helicopters is accepting 28 new students into the program. As of Dec. 11, 16 students had already paid a deposit on class fees.

Veterans can transfer a percentage of their benefits to dependents, allowing them to take educational classes.

Guidance Helicopters President and CEO John Stonecipher expects the program to bring 28 new families to Yavapai College with each training session.

"Once we get ramped up, we will be starting new training five times a year and adding $5.5 million to the local economy. As a company, we are looking to add between 10 and 20 new jobs," Stonecipher said. "A minimum of 75 percent of the students will be from out of state."

In order to qualify for G.I. Bill benefits, the Veteran's Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration must approve the flight-training program.

Guidance Helicopters is an FAA-approved flight school.

"The Vietnam-era guys are retiring so there will be a market for helicopter pilots," Johnson said.

The first class begins Jan. 20. Students must follow all Yavapai College admittance procedures, plus have a medical exam and obtain TSA (Transportation Security Association) clearance and financial aid.

Students must be working toward a degree and take all the necessary degree-seeking classes.

"It is a lengthy process," Johnson said. "Financial aid is the slowest part and it can be tough if you are not a vet."

Guidance Helicopters officials said Yavapai College President Dr. Jim Horton "was instrumental in making this happen. John Morgan is the dean in the trenches working to make this happen."

According the Stonecipher, the new program fits into the college's "vision to help vets get back into civilian life."

The new program targets entry-level pilots, people with no flying experience. Johnson suggests that potential students take a 30-minute "introductory ride to see if this is something they want to do."

The program uses instructional videos, in-class simulators for each student and one-on-one flight instruction in the world's most popular and effective helicopters. Johnson said the program is the only one in the United States to use "FAA-approved online instructional videos that students watch outside of class."

Additional information about the flight training program is at www.guidancehelicopters.com or by calling Guidance at 1-877-2FLYHI or by visiting the Yavapai College website at www.yc.edu or calling the YC advising department at 928-776-2106.

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