New helicopter training program takes off
Liberty University’s vision for a helicopter concentration in the School of Aeronautics developed wings two weeks ago as a 2006 Schweizer CBi 300 touched down at Falwell Airport in Lynchburg, Va.
The arrival of the sleek aircraft valued at approximately $300,000 signaled a new distinction for the School of Aeronautics and Liberty University, making LU one of only three universities in the nation to offer both a fixed wing and helicopter training program.
The other two schools are Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona and the University of North Dakota, said LU Aviation Department Chairman Ernie Rogers, who is thrilled with the new piece of equipment.
“It’s a very solid, smooth-flying helicopter that’s perfect for a trainer,” said Rogers. “The versatility and the multi-mission tasks you can do make it a great aircraft to fly.”
LU will lease the helicopter, he said, and students will pay a fee to fly in it. Rogers would like to see 50 students start in the program—and classes are available now.
“It’s a fun experience. It’s something completely different,” said Kyle Falwell, manager of Falwell Airport, where the helicopter will be housed.
Tim Tillman, who recently moved from Idaho to Lynchburg to serve as the school’s certified helicopter flight instructor, knows that helicopters are ideal for flying into remote locations on the missions field—but he believes the program could create a mission field right at home.
“Hopefully [the helicopter instruction] will draw some people who aren’t normally going to look at Liberty because it’s a Christian school,” Tillman said. “They can come here and be introduced to the culture and hopefully be exposed to the Gospel that way.”
Laura Cox, administrative assistant and Aviation Department graduate, said the helicopter concentration is a great stride for such a young program.
“I always wanted to fly helicopters, which we didn’t have,” she said. “When the helicopter came … I was just ecstatic.”
Liberty University’s School of Aeronautics has grown from four students when it began in 2002 to more than 250 students today. In addition to helicopter instruction, the Aviation Program offers concentrations in missionary, military and commercial flight.