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Earning Your Wings

Skyler Maxwell is a student at Dodge City Community College's (DCCC's) helicopter pilot program. He became interested in it at the Kansas State Fair last year after going on a flight with DCCC's business partner, Universal Helicopters Inc. "I just fell in love with it," Maxwell says." He is now pursuing a certified flight instructor's license and is on pace to receive an associate's degree in applied science. Maxwell and three other students will attend three-hour classes, in which they will receive ground and flight training, at least three days a week this semester. Dustin Suchor, director of operations for Universal, says frequent and consistent practice is key for students who want to become pilots because they can retain the information better and become more comfortable with flying.  After approximately 20 flight hours, students begin solo flights. Suchor says that some people take classes to earn their private license so they can qualify to fly a personal plane.  Other students want to become full-time helicopter pilots or flight instructors, so they will complete the entire program. In 2007, DCCC officials signed a two-year contract with the Arizona-based company headed by Gordon Jiroux, who has experience as a flight examiner, instructor, and pilot.  The flight school was started 27 years ago and now operates in four other locations: Scottsdale, Ariz.; Provo, Utah; Long Beach, Calif.; and Prescott, Ariz. Suchor says the program has attracted interest from people in Colorado, New Mexico, Nebraska, and other surrounding states; so he expects it to grow each semester and eventually accommodate 20 or more students at a time. "It's a fairly young program," he says.  "I'm very ambitious and excited about the future of the program."

January 17, 2009

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