Helicopter Foundation International (HFI) hosted the second meeting of HeliFutures at HAI HELI-EXPO 2019. The group brings together stakeholders from across the helicopter industry, including operators and maintenance and flight schools, to discuss initiatives for attracting, training, and developing the pilots and maintenance technicians who will be the rotorcraft workforce of the future.
As part of the meeting, attendees highlighted several examples of partnerships and collaborations within our industry. One example is a multimedia campaign, Choose Aerospace, developed by the Aviation Technical Education Council (ATEC). The campaign will promote aviation maintenance to young people, employing techniques such as video testimonials, social media, and mobile games and apps.
More than 10 industry partners have already signed on as partners in the campaign, including several airlines, the Aviation Institute of Maintenance, and other aviation maintenance organizations. ATEC is seeking additional partners; learn more at chooseaerospace.org.
Some operators and flight schools have created career progression programs that take the mystery out of building a career as a helicopter pilot. These programs provide pilots with stable employment, mentorship and support, and a clear path for their advancement from low-time pilot to a 2,000-hour pilot with turbine experience who will be in demand by all industry sectors.
Aviation Futures, which was started by Colorado Heli-Ops, Sundance Helicopters’ Skypath Program, and the University of North Dakota University Pathways Program are good examples of career progression programs; several airlines now have them for maintenance technicians too. Access to pilots and AMTs is one advantage for operators; the other is the opportunity to influence training so that eventual hires will meet the operator’s standards and needs.
Finally, HFI announced an initiative it is spearheading in the state of Utah. The Utah Rotor Pathway Program is in the development stage and is organized around industry partners, high schools, and universities in that state. Utah’s government leaders recognize that supporting aviation education for pilots and maintenance technicians benefits their state by providing solid career opportunities for its citizens while building a trained aviation workforce.
As we look to future meetings, HeliFutures will work with member organizations at the state level to establish similar pathway programs. The group is also investigating programs that will lessen the financial barriers to aviation training. These could include a student loan fund and innovative employment benefits such as student loan repayment programs.