Colorado Nonprofit Aims to Put Pilots on Stable Career Paths

By Amy Kluber | June 25, 2018
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Black Hills Aerial Adventures R44

Black Hills Aerial Adventures' Robinson R44. Photo courtesy of Black Hills Aerial Adventures

A Colorado nonprofit is ramping up its career path program by subsidizing the training of student pilots through established operators, organized into tiers that students can climb to further their careers.

Aviation Futures, created in 2015, has provided more than 100 hours of free flight time in 2017. The organization provides training for both fixed- and rotary-wing platforms and free factory courses for vetted pilots and mechanics. When a student completes their private certificate, they can apply to enter the Aviation Futures program.


The program is organized in four tiers, ranked by level of training. Operators participating in the program fall under one of those four tiers. The second tier, which affords the pilot the opportunity to fly tours at Black Hills Aerial Adventures in South Dakota, began in November 2017. There trainees can fly Robinson R44s and R66s, and Bell 206B3s and 47s in an environment that will further their tour experience and prepare them for the third-tier jobs.

Another partner operator is Colorado Heli-Ops, which is a first-tier operator. Trainees there receive instruction at high altitudes, participate in an FAA-devloped training program called FITS/SBT, and are introduced to an online flight risk assessment and mitigation tool and in-house safety management system.

When the pilots meet the hiring requirements of Aviation Futures’ third-tier partners, they can apply for a position and have a guaranteed interview in accordance with the agreement with the partner operator. The pilots will then stay with the third-tier company for a minimum time specified by that operator and then may apply for an open position with a fourth-tier operator. Fourth-tier operators are generally utility or air medical operators that require more flight experience.

The program aims to have a variety of industry partners represented in the tier levels. To date, there are 10 industry partners in the program including Aviation Safety Consultants, Aero Tech, PJ Helicopters, Air Evac Lifeteam, Papillion Airways, ERA Helicopters, TEMSCO Helicopters and T&M Aviation.

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