ECSU to add helicopter pilot training program

 Elizabeth City State University’s aviation science program — which already teaches students to fly airplanes and next fall will begin teaching them to fly drones — could also eventually teach students to fly helicopters. 

Aviation sciences program Director Kuldeep Rawat made that announcement during his and other ECSU officials’ meeting with the Elizabeth City Regional Airport Authority last week.

Rawat and interim ECSU Chancellor Karrie Dixon shared various stats showing ECSU's growth in aviation instruction since last year. Rawat said the aviation program's enrollment has grown from 54 to 73, and ECSU's flight training students have doubled to 44.

ECSU has also hired four new employees, including two flight instructors, and purchased five more aircraft to bring its total to eight, they reported.

Rawat and Dixon also discussed ECSU’s new unmanned aircraft systems degree program, which will instruct students in using drones and processing the data they collect. The program is on track to start in fall 2019.

Rawat also told the authority that ECSU is considering a helicopter training program. ECSU started considering the program two years ago, which would include contracting with a helicopter training company, North American Helicopter, of Sauget, Ilinois. Rawat said hiring the contractor would give ECSU a ‘turnkey’ program that could start quickly and with less expense.

Rawat detailed in a follow-up email that a national study has projected a national shortage of helicopter pilots, a shortage as large as 2,200 by 2020. ECSU's proximity to numerous military facilities and the numerous veterans in its service area “should provide a worthwhile flow of aviation students to justify helicopter training,” he said.

Rawat noted that helicopter pilots have numerous career opportunities, including in search-and-rescue operations, metropolitan law enforcement, electronic newsgathering, sightseeing businesses and emergency medical services.

The helicopter training would also be offered as part of ECSU's existing four-year aviation science degree, and does not require external approvals, Rawat said, adding North American Helicopter is already a federally approved instructor.

Rawat said ECSU would make a decision about offering helicopter training next spring. If the university proceeds with the program, it will be offered in fall 2019 or spring 2020.

Dixon also discussed ECSU's improving fortunes more generally during the airport authority meeting. She highlighted ECSU's major growth in freshman enrollment, thanks in part to the NC Promise program that's reducing the cost of ECSU's tuition.

She also noted ECSU is attracting students with good academic records. The new freshman class's academic profile is the best the university has had in years, she said, reporting ECSU had an average GPA of 3.2, average SAT scores of 996 and average ACT scores of 18.