Plane & Pilot
Wednesday, December 1, 2004

University of North Dakota/Aerospace

Training helicopter pilots for the U.S. Army

Most aviation insiders feel that the University of North Dakota (UND)/Aerospace is to aviation what Harvard is to law and business, partly because of its technologically advanced complex for collegiate aviation. And just like Harvard Law School, UND/Aerospace, which offers seven aviation majors, is a big part of a quite highly respected, four-year liberal arts university.

On top of all of that, UND/Aerospace has long been noted as a good provider of aviation professionals: airline pilots, aviation managers and air traffic controllers. As a matter of fact, Kiplinger’s, cites UND/Aerospace as one of the top 100 university values in the nation.

But the praise for the highly respected university doesn’t stop there. The campus, home to the rich farmlands of the Red River Valley located at Grand Forks, N.D.—which is a city of 50,000—was listed by Money magazine as one of the most livable cities found in America. Both the city life at Grand Forks as well as UND/Aerospace’s campus scene reflect the Midwestern states’ traditions of stability, order and ethics.

And just when you thought the university couldn’t top what it has already achieved, UND became the only university in the nation with a baccalaureate helicopter program. That’s right, UND will train flight students to pilot U.S. Army helicopters to better serve our country’s defense.

U.S. Army ROTC Helicopter Flight-Training Program
“Students who come to our program do so out of their passion for helicopters and a strong desire to serve their country,” states Mike Krotz, assistant chief of UND’s helicopter program. As word of this unique and relatively new program has spread, students are arriving from all reaches of the nation. Many are thinking that with the inevitability of a military buildup, many may be called to service. So why not fulfill that service by answering the dream to become a pilot commanding the latest combat helicopter? And why not receive this initial training while earning a degree from a prestigious university that’s noted for its collegiate flight training and offers one of the nation’s finest ROTC programs of military leadership?

This four-year UND program isn’t easy and is suitable only for focused, dedicated students. While earning a liberal arts bachelor’s degree—which will serve well in civilian life after military service—these students also must earn the demanding helicopter-class FAA private and commercial-pilot certificates with an instrument rating while maintaining a required GPA. And all the while, they must excel at ROTC studies of military science along with the summer encampments. Thanks to a thorough selection process for enrollment, however, student attrition in this program is practically nil—those who are enrolled graduate.

Helicopter flight training is normally quite expensive. The U.S. Army, however, needs superbly trained pilots to fly its high-tech helicopters. Accordingly, the U.S. Army provides the costs of UND helicopter flight training and university tuition. All in all, that’s a value of about $77,000. In return, the U.S. Army asks for six years of service.

Service Commission

Upon graduating from UND/Aerospace and its U.S. Army ROTC Helicopter Flight Training Program, you’ll be commissioned as a second lieutenant. Within 60 days, you’ll then receive your order to Ft. Rucker, Ala. There, you’ll bypass initial army flight school and then directly enter advanced military-operations helicopter training.

At Ft. Rucker, you’ll train in the Bell TH-57. It’s a military version of the Bell 206 Jet Ranger that UND helicopter-program students usually fly. Graduates do quite well at Ft. Rucker. Virtually all of them make it through advanced helicopter school, with many graduating in the top 10% of their class.

After advanced training, you’ll be posted to a base that’s dedicated to a specific combat craft, such as the Kiowa Warrior, Apache or Blackhawk. Typically, UND alumni are promoted to first lieutenant in about 18 months then to captain well within their six years of active duty.

Post-Military Service
UND alumni who choose to leave service typically have 200 helicopter hours from their UND training and up to 800 hours in the service. They experience little difficulty securing a civilian helicopter position. These jobs normally provide a comfortable income. For example, EMS fliers often start at $50,000. And should you choose a path other than a flying career, the breadth of knowledge and education that you will have received from UND will provide you with enough leverage to forge a successful trail into the future.

For more information, contact the University of North Dakota/Aerospace at (800) CALL-UND or visit the UND Website at

Ron Fowler is a lifelong flight instructor, adjunct professor of aviation at Valencia Community College, Orlando, Fla., and author of flying texts for Iowa State University Press, Ames, Iowa, and Aviation Book Company, Seattle, Wash.


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