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Soaring success for SUU’s flight school

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CEDAR CITY, Utah - In its second semester, Southern Utah University’s flight school has more than doubled its enrollment, and says demand for helicopter pilots is fueling the program's popularity.

Upper Limit Aviation began their partnership with SUU in the fall of 2013 with just over 60 students. Directors say they didn’t anticipate how quickly the flight program would take off.

“We can’t produce them fast enough,” says Upper Limit flight operations director Mike Mower. “Within one semester, we’ve grown that to 137 students, with already a waiting list for the summer semester.”

The public-private partnership is unique and offers students the chance to get a pilot’s license, along with a bachelor’s degree in as little as three years. Mower says the Cedar City location gives students an advantage above others.

“We are the highest training school in the US,” says Mower. “We’re also the only school that offers industry standard aircraft. Instead of just the normal basic trainers, we offer larger turbine aircraft to really get these guys prepared to go out and go straight into a job.”

The flight school is open to anyone, but it’s particularly popular with veterans. Many of them have found a love for flying while serving. And want to continue that career. Mower says about half of their students are using GI benefits to pay for college.

Wyoming native T.J. Ilgen is one of them. He says his love for flying grew while in the military, but didn’t know how he’d pay. Veteran benefits have helped him realize that dream.

Ilgen says one of the great things about upper limits’ teaching model is, after a couple semesters, he’ll become the instructor, solidifying those lessons.

“There’s a lot of learning, and then you turn that around and teach it back,” says Ilgen. “Teaching is a good way of making sure you’ve got everything down pat, so when you end up out in the industry doing whatever it is you want to do, you’ve got everything down, you’re ready to go.”

The flight school started teaching fixed wing aviation this semester, and expects that will add to the popularity. For more information on the program, visit Upper Limit’s website: www.upperlimitaviation.edu.