SUU Aviation begins new partnership to offer helicopter pilot development program

Photo courtesy of Southern Utah Aviation Program in Cedar City, Utah | St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — Thanks to a new partnership, students at Southern Utah University will be able to experience a program that will be instrumental in providing graduating pilots with a clear path from school to industry.

An undated photo of a pilot courtesy of Southern Utah Aviation in Cedar City, Utah | St. George News / Cedar City News

Sundance Helicopters Inc. and the Sundance SkyPath program in Las Vegas is partnering with Southern Utah University Aviation to bring the program to SUU, according to a press release from the school.

SUU is the third school to become a partner in the SkyPath program and joins other top-flight schools – Leading Edge Aviation in Bend, Oregon, and UND Aerospace in Grand Forks, North Dakota – in offering the helicopter pilot development program.

“Sundance has taken the lead in developing a defined pathway for graduating students to enter the rotor industry,” Michael Mower, SUU Aviation executive director, said in the press release. “SUU’s Department of Aviation is pleased to partner with such an outstanding leader in our industry. This partnership between our two organizations is what the rotor industry desperately needs to meet the overwhelming demand for highly qualified helicopter pilots.”

Pilot candidates involved in the SkyPath program will receive job mentoring, additional operating experience through internships and job shadowing, and guaranteed interviews with Sundance Helicopters after minimum program requirements are met.

“I am very excited to work arm in arm with SUU bringing our pilot program to the school and to participate in the development of future professional pilots,” Mark Schlaefli, director of operations for Sundance Helicopters, said. “Pilot candidates will be exposed to the industry at a very early stage providing them with the training and development they need to be successful in the commercial aviation world.”

Because of the booming helicopter industry and the many graduates SUU Aviation has each year, this new pathway program opens up many opportunities for both organizations by supplying the starving helicopter industry with much needed pilots.

Current projections show the helicopter industry to be on the cusp of huge pilot shortages. Helicopters Association International has identified the gap between graduating students and top industry jobs to be one of the largest contributing factors to these shortages. Pathway program partnerships are critical to helping both the student pilot and the industry in placing experienced pilots where they are needed most.

SUU Aviation’s graduates will now have a clear pathway after school, and Sundance Helicopters will be hiring some of the best, most experienced graduates out there. Both organizations are fully dedicated to making this partnership a success for both SUU graduates and the Sundance Helicopter’s Las Vegas and Grand Canyon touring company.

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