In a hangar at the Grand Junction regional airport flight instructor Colby Erickson gets ready to take to the skies. Its something this pilot has been doing and teaching for the past five years. "Just takes a little coordination. I like to tell my students if you can dribble a basketball you can probably fly a helicopter," says Erickson.
Erickson works for Suncrest Aviation, a flight school based in Utah that recently expanded its operation to Grand Junction. Co–owner Preston Raban says the need for helicopter pilots won't go away. "No matter what the government goes through no matter how bad a recession, they'll always need helicopters, and the military can only kick out so many helicopter pilots and there's such a demand right now," says, Raban.
According to the FAA, general aviation hours flown is expected to increase by almost 2 percent each year until 2025. Raban says, "We haven't even advertised and we've got people coming to us constantly very interested in seeing what it takes to be a helicopter pilot."
To earn your private license to fly a helicopter you'll need a minimum of 40 hours of flight time. Many students who learn to fly at Suncrest go on to find jobs in aviation. Raban says, "A majority of them have got either in the tourist industry or flying to the oil rigs and some have made it now to EMS pilots."
One of the benefits of learning to fly in Grand Junction is that it’s at a higher altitude. Helicopter pilots who fly at a higher altitude have a better understanding of helicopters limitations which means you're ready to fly anywhere in the world. "Its irreplaceable its top notch it gives you that upper edge when you come looking for that job in helicopters," says, Raban.
Suncrest Aviation includes five different certifications in their training.
On Wednesday, Suncrest Aviation is hosting an open house from two to six pm in their hangar at the Grand Junction Regional Airport.