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FLIGHT TRAINING: Eligible VA Benefits, Personal Loans, Scholarships with College Degree

 

Kenny with Helicopter Online Ground School, LLC talks with Todd Smith, Director of Aviation Programs at Madisonville Community College. Todd explains many of the many available benefits of attending Flight Training through college courses!

 



Kenny Keller:
Kenny with Helicopter Online Ground School here with Todd Smith, Director of Aviation Programs at Madisonville Community College


I'm going to get to it with Todd. He's going to explain to you the benefits of attending a college program for helicopter flight training. Students here at Madisonville Community College are using HOGS to supplement their classroom and flight training. I was invited down here, I'm having a great time, and thank you for inviting me down here.


 

 

Todd Smith:

Well, thank you Kenny. It's a pleasure to have you here with us. You're correct, our students are using HOGS products as a core for a lot of our courses, and we really love the content. It's done a great job for us.

Kenny Keller:
Thank you. Appreciate that very much.

Todd Smith:
It's a real honor to have you here. The program here, Madisonville Community College, we run two programs currently, two pilot training programs. A professional helicopter pilot training program, and also a professional airplane pilot training program. Both programs operate or exist inside of an associate's of applied science degree, so you effectively end up with an associate's degree and all of the certifications on the helicopter side to take you through CFII

Kenny Keller:
Nice.

Todd Smith:
Yeah. Program's relatively new. We've been operating for about a year down here. Program's a little more than a year old, I've been here about a year. I am super excited to be here. The community, the state of Kentucky, the Kentucky community and technical college system, there's so much support in the region here. I think you've seen a little bit of it.

Kenny Keller:
It's amazing. I'm blown away with what you have going on. It's amazing.

Todd Smith:
It's one of the things for me having been in this industry for a long time. I left the military in 1996, went into the civil side of helicopter maintenance and helicopter operations. I've spent the bulk of my career on the training side of that sector. I've seen a lot of flight schools, I've seen a lot of even flight schools inside of collegiate programs over the years. I don't think I've ever seen the level of stakeholder support that I see here in this community, in this area. I don't think I've ever seen it like I see it here for this program.

Kenny Keller:
New hanger going up just for the helicopters.

Todd Smith:
That's right. That's right. New hanger being built right now at Madisonville Municipal Airport. Really neat airport, it actually exists inside of the Madisonville City, not limits, but portfolio if you will. New hanger being built there with a brand new apron that's specific to skid helicopter operation. We all know the difference there between tar back and pressure-reinforced concrete.

Kenny Keller:
You have a decent facility now.

Todd Smith:
Fantastic.

Kenny Keller:
So you're up and running with a really nice facility, but you're going to be moving to an even better facility, brand new.

Todd Smith:
Absolutely. One of the advantages for me honestly, Kenny, is having been in the training side is of the industry for so long, and having played a part in businesses that started small and grew, and eventually grew to be really large, I have the luxury of seeing what things did we struggle with along the way. As an example, it was always frustrating to see our flight instructors not having necessarily adequate space to pre and post brief flights.

Those are the type of things that we really thought about when we had the opportunity to say, "Okay, we were going to build it," and I mean without a budget. Of course, everyone always has a budget, but if we were going to build it, we were going to build it smart. What types of things would we do? And there's a great example, plenty of room for briefings.

We're very fortunate in that there was some space that existed that we were able to repurpose, make a little bit of investment into. And like I said before, the support from the Federal Aviation Administration from a grants perspective with some other grants, some other economic development groups, it's all come together really, really well.

Kenny Keller:
Can we say the governor was just here a week ago?

Todd Smith:
Governor Beshear was here, that's correct. Just not last week, but the week prior, he was actually in Muhlenberg. When I say here, he was in Muhlenberg County, where our airplane program is being run from. He was here for a groundbreaking ceremony, which I thought was a really neat thing for our governor to do, to take the time to make it to that event. Especially knowing how full his plate has been dealing with the really unfortunate and tragic events that took place in Eastern Kentucky in August.

One of the great things I love about this college is we have the opportunity to influence young people with respect to aviation. It's one thing to stand in front of a group of young people and talk to them about aviation, it's another to be able to give them an experience like flying on one of these great simulators.

Kenny Keller:
We know from the airplane and helicopter side both, there is a pilot shortage. 

Todd Smith:
You're right about the shortage, we do have a shortage of pilots across the industry. Shortage of maintainers as well. You think about, from a perspective of where aviation is going growth-wise, it's only going to get worse. I had this conversation with someone the other day. Traditionally, when we think about aviation, you think of traditional aviation. Piloting airplanes, flying helicopters, but we know what the UAVAUAS scene has looked like in the last several years. Now we're moving into all of these other adjacent commercial space flight and other sectors of the aviation industry that's going to require talent.

I feel a number of advantages to obtaining your ratings, learning to fly, and becoming a certificate pilot inside of a collegiate program. I want to be real clear and say also, though, that I have a lot of experience with non-collegiate programs, and they can be fantastic and produce just phenomenal pilots.

So seeking out the pilot ratings within a degree program, or at an institute of higher education, it opens up a number of options for traditional student financial aid and loans that wouldn't necessarily have been there going through a vocational pathway. Further to your point, with respect to veterans specifically, our programs are VA eligible. 

Kenny Keller:
This is so laid-back. That's my biggest takeaway in the first 24 hours is, if you're looking for the laid-back atmosphere, this is it. It is right here in Madisonville, Kentucky, that's for sure.

Todd Smith:
Well, I certainly take that as a compliment. I agree, Madisonville, it's a really quaint and nice town. The people are fantastic. Like you, lived and spent a large portion of my career in really big cities. When I first came up here to start interacting with the folks at the college, I was captivated. They're just good people, the community same way. I've made some really good friends in a real short amount of time up here. They were very proud of the culture, and how they welcome people, and how the city operates. Now I am too. It's great.

Kenny Keller:
And I think you'll have people that are going to come from around the country are going to want to come here. I'm just saying.

Todd Smith:
I'm going to circle back if I can, for just a second, when you asked me about the Veterans Administration eligibility, VA eligibility, and kind of what it means for someone that's looking to attend the program and has VA eligibility. I'm always reluctant to say "It'll pay for, it'll pay for," because there are no guarantees from a vet's perspective. Really what it comes down to, is if anyone is interested in speaking with us about the eligibility and getting an idea of how much of the program that the benefits will pay for, then contact us directly and we'll provide that information current. It's at the moment, because it does change from semester to semester sometimes, based on how we've amended curriculums or what may have actually occurred. So I'm reluctant to say "It'll do," because that kind of dates the content of what we're talking about here.

Kenny Keller:
Right. Everything's changing, so there's always things that are updating.

Todd Smith:
Thank you Kenny. Been, again, great having you here, and look forward to hopefully working on some future video projects with you. You can reach us through our website. The links are:

Website https://www.madisonville.kctcs.edu 

Email: [email protected]

Kenny Keller:
Yes, we'll get them down below the video.

Todd Smith:
We'd love to hear from anyone who's interested in either airplane or helicopter, from a pathway perspective. I would also like to offer up too, if our program's not right for someone, if helicopter versus airplane or vice versa is not right for someone, we are here to help people find what it is that they want to do. So we always offer an unbiased, candid, "Yeah, I think this is great. No, it's not." Folks sometimes contact us and say, "Okay, this is what I want to do, but here's what I have from a medical perspective. Do you think I can, or do you think I can't?" And we give our candid advice. So whether you are coming or you aren't, you want to talk to us, you want to have a conversation around what's the best pathway for somebody, we'd love to hear from you.

Kenny Keller:
Awesome.