Delaware State University launches helicopter flight training program with help of Army partnership

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Delaware State University has announced a new partnership with the U.S. Army Cadet Command that will expand the University’s Aviation Program into helicopter flight training.

Helicopter instruction will expand the Aviation Program’s Professional Pilot discipline that will not only provide helicopter training to U.S. Army ROTC students, but also later will be an option for all undergraduate aviation majors as well. The first group of ROTC helicopter students will begin their training in the fall semester of 2023.

The U.S. Army will cover the cost of the tuition, books and related flight lab fees for the ROTC cadets.

Dr. Michael Casson, dean of the University’s College of Business – which encompasses the Aviation Program – noted that Delaware State University is also the first HBCU to benefit from the Flight Act sponsored by Delaware U.S. Senator Chris Coons.

The Flight Act  – which was co-sponsored by Delaware U.S. Sen. Tom Carper – requires flight training programs in connection with senior ROTC units at HBCUs.

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“As is the case with all things of great impact, this program does not happen without the collective efforts and support of so many key partners,” Casson said. “That includes the U.S. Army Cadet Command, Sen. Coons and the other elected members of the Delaware Congressional Delegation, as well as the support of Aviation Program alumni and friends.”

Ascent Aero – an aviation company based in Medford, N.J. – has been contracted by the University to provide the training at the Delaware Airpark near Cheswold with the company’s Cabri G2 Helicopters. The university will establish several new helicopter pads at the Airpark for takeoffs and landings as part of the agreement.

Similar to the professional pilot training for planes, helicopter trainees will be able to earn certifications for Private Pilot, Instrumentation Rating, and commercial and Instructor Ratings prior to graduation.

The institution’s involvement in aviation began in 1939 with a Civilian Pilot Training Program. The then-State College for Colored Students was one of six Historically Black Colleges and Universities that initiated flight training for African Americans. In 1940, the U.S. Government consolidated that program at the Tuskegee Army Air Field, where pilots and support personnel gained great fame as the “Tuskegee Airmen.”

The current Aviation Program at Delaware State University was launched in 1987.

After operating with an older fleet of planes during its first 30 years of existence, the State of Delaware provided a $3.4 million grant from its Delaware Higher Education Economic Development Fund for the purchase of 10 then-new Vulcanair V1.O single-engine aircraft..

The university recently augmented its fleet with the purchase of three Piper Warriors and one Piper Arrow single engine planes, bringing its total fleet to 26 aircraft – more than any other HBCU aviation program.

Over the years, the university’s Aviation Program has been a major supplier of pilots of color to the nation’s commercial airlines and military branches. 

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