Starting this fall, Conestoga College will be expanding its aviation program to include pilot training on helicopters.
The college has signed a partnership agreement with Great Lakes Helicopter, which operates out of the Region of Waterloo International Airport, to offer the training. The program is modeled on a similar partnership between the college and the Waterloo Wellington Flight Centre for training on fixed-wing aircraft.
Students who graduate from the program will have a diploma in aviation – general arts and sciences, as well as a commercial helicopter pilot’s licence.
“We see a need for helicopter pilots and there are a limited number of opportunities for those pilots to get the training in Ontario,” said Gordon Greavette, chair of communication and liberal studies at Conestoga College.
The program is unique in the province, Greavette explained. Canadore College in North Bay offers a one-year helicopter training program, whose graduates receive a pilot preparedness certificate. Students who graduate from Conestoga’s two-year program will have their commercial pilot’s licence for helicopters as well as a college diploma.
At the college, students will take courses in basic aviation, social sciences, humanities, math and science. Their flight training and ground school will be completed at Great Lakes Helicopter. The course will last from September to April, although students will be able to fly in the summer if they’re short on flight hours.
The course is laid out by Transport Canada, which stipulates that students must have a minimum of 100 hours of flight time and 80 hours of ground school. After students have completed their flight training, they will write a written exam and complete a flight test, both administered by Transport Canada.
Nick Booth, chief flight instructor for Great Lakes Helicopter, said the students will have 50 hours of flight time in their first year on the smaller Robinson R22s, which hold the pilot and one passenger. In their second year, the students will fly the larger R44s and Bell 206 Jet Ranger, which hold three and four passengers respectively.
The training will include takeoff, landing, hovering, landing in confined areas and a variety of emergency scenarios so the students are prepared for anything that can happen in the air.
Graduates of the program will be able to fly for any job that involves helicopters, from sightseeing, heli fishing and skiing to logging, mining, tree spraying, fighting forest fires and air ambulance.
“There’s a whole array of choices,” Booth said.
The training at Great Lakes Helicopter will cost $70,000, on top of the student’s college fees, explained Jo Anne Leyburne, general manager of Great Lakes.
Conestoga is accepting students to the program for September, but because it’s April and many have already decided what they’ll be studying, the college is promoting the program for September 2011. Greavette said the college hopes to eventually build it up to eight or 10 students.