[SPOKANE, Wash.] A helicopter is now being housed at Spokane Community College. It is the first time ever that SCC’s aviation program has had an operational helicopter for students to train on.
The Agusta A109A arrived at the college’s Felts Field location on September 13. It will be housed at SCC’s Felts Field hangar along with 13 other aircraft.
“It’s here! It’s here!” Members of SCC’s Aviation Technology Program faculty rushed out to greet a truck towing the helicopter on a trailer. The aircraft had traveled across the country from Vermont and now at its final landing spot in Spokane.
The Aviation program offers Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved courses in general aviation mechanics. Students learn to inspect, service and repair airplanes and helicopters. Some of the hands-on training involves working on the crafts’ hydraulics, electrical wiring and flight instruments. Graduates of the program will be eligible to take the FAA exam for licensure in both airframes and powerplants. Training on the helicopter and other planes at the hangar give students multiple career options with major airlines, manufacturers, repair stations, structural repair facilities and other organizations in the aviation industry.
“Introducing a helicopter into our aviation maintenance program is not just a bold move, but a strategic investment in the future of our students,” said SCC Dean of Technical Education Ashley Purdin, who was on-site for the helicopter’s arrival. “As the aviation industry continues to expand, the demand for skilled maintenance professionals is reaching new heights. A real hands-on experience with a helicopter will provide our students with unparalleled insights into the complexities of aircraft maintenance, preparing them to excel in their careers from day one.”
Last year, Purdin discussed the need for a maintenance training helicopter at the Aviation Technician Education Council’s Annual Conference. She was told to contact Mansfield Heliflight in Vermont. Heliflight’s owner, Eric Chase, was experienced in building helicopter training devices from salvaged helicopters and told Purdin that they had several airframes available. SCC Aviation Maintenance Training Department Chair Andy Dodson and faculty member Peter Allen visited Heliflight to inspect several helicopters.
The Agusta A109A It is an Italian-built twin turbine engine helicopter that is able to seat two crew members and seven passengers. It was certified for flight in North America in 1975 and was used by the Argentinian army and government before a hard landing damaged its tail boom. The Agusta will only be used for ground-based maintenance training and not for flight operations.
SCC’s former dean for technical education, Dave Cox, had worked for 10 years to land a functioning helicopter for the program’s students. Upon his retirement, Cox said he felt like this was his career topper.
SCC Acting President Jenni Martin and Interim Vice President of Instruction Jaclyn Jacot were supportive of attaining the new aviation training tool and approved $100,000 for a helicopter trainer via Perkins Funding process. Both Martin and Jacot were also at the aviation hangar, watching with excitement as the truck pulled up with the helicopter.
“The investment by Jenni Martin and Jaclyn Jacot speaks volumes about our commitment to producing maintenance professionals who can confidently take on the challenges of the ever-evolving aviation industry,” Purdin said.