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San Juan College in talks for helicopter pilot training program

sjcFARMINGTON — San Juan College officials are in talks with a helicopter pilot training school to bring the program to Farmington.

College President Toni Pendergrass and Vice President for Learning Barbara Ake met with representatives of Guidance Aviation about a partnership to establish a third location for the school on Dec. 22.

Pendergrass gave a presentation during a college board work session Tuesday sharing the details of the preliminary discussions, providing a brief overview of what she learned about the school and its operations.

Guidance Aviation currently operates two locations in Yavapai College in Prescott, Ariz., and Baton Rouge Community College in Baton Rouge, La.

College math professor Ken Lillie suggested San Juan College talk with Guidance Aviation officials after teaching at Yavapai College.

“We are currently engaged in a feasibility study of the helicopter program here at San Juan College,” Pendergrass said. “We met with several of their leadership team members in December and have another meeting scheduled later this month. We plan to determine the return on investment for both students and the college as part of this process.”

Pendergrass said opening a school in Farmington would provide several advantages for students enrolled in the programs.

Farmington’s high altitude makes it ideal for helicopter training.

“It’s much easier to obtain a position in this industry if you have high-altitude training because it’s hard to fly at high altitudes,” Pendergrass said.

While in Farmington, Guidance Aviation officials, including CEO John Stonecipher, toured the San Juan Regional Airport to determine if there was enough space to house the program in a trip organized by the Four Corners Economic Development CEO Ray Hagerman.

Airport Manager Mike Lewis said the group was impressed with the facilities and would work with Guidance Aviation officials to get the 5,000 square feet they need for classrooms, simulators and helicopter storage.

“They found everything up here adequate for what they were looking for,” Lewis said.

San Juan College has made agreements with several state colleges, including the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology and the University of New Mexico, to help students continue their education.

Pendergrass said partnerships with other colleges and universities are important for San Juan College students.

“We plan to continue to advance partnerships with other colleges and universities,” Pendergrass said. “It is vital that we help our students achieve their career goals and that we respond to the needs of the communities we serve.”

Joshua Kellogg covers education forThe Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4527 and Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.


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