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Famed flight school Hillsboro Aero Academy (HAA) is to convert its Troutdale Campus in Oregon into an exclusive helicopter training campus, to be known as the Hillsboro Heli Academy.
The move is a reflection of the operator’s desire to better focus the helicopter part of its school, which had until now been sharing facilities with the company’s fixed-wing schools in Hillsboro and Troutdale, Oregon; and Las Vegas, Nevada. The change will see Hillsboro Heli Academy essentially run as its own operation, with Troutdale functioning as the main hub of the school’s rotary-wing training activity.
“The airline industry has been strong and subsequently our focus on helicopters got overshadowed for a brief second by the airplane school and how well we were performing there,” said helicopter chief instructor Lasse Brevik. “Now we’re putting all of our helicopters, our helicopter instructors, everything that we have [on the rotary-wing side] and we’re making our Troutdale campus our main helicopter focus.”
HAA was established as part of Hillsboro Helicopters (later known as Hillsboro Aviation) in 1980, but split from the charter and sales side of the business when owner Max Lyons sold the flight school in 2014. It currently operates as a fixed- and rotary-wing flight school, with the helicopter side staffed by 25 instructors.
“[The launch of Hillsboro Heli Academy] is a pretty big change for the company — it’s the biggest one we’ve done since 2014, when we started separating the flight school from the charter and sales department,” said Brevik. “I think this is something that the helicopter industry really needs. We really want to get the message out there to students that the helicopter industry is still a very strong industry.”
Director of helicopter training Jared Friend has taken up a position as head of the Hillsboro Heli Academy, and the launch of the school as a distinct entity will become complete once all fixed-wing students and certified flight instructors (CFIs) have completed their transition to HAA’s other campuses.
“We realized for the helicopter school that we needed to separate ourselves a little bit — just in mindset, not actually in reality — and really have a team that is focused and a location that is specifically focused on helicopter training,” said Friend. “We’re pretty excited about how this can grow our unity and our culture and also give us an opportunity to work with helicopter industry leaders to renew our helicopter brand.”
Last year, HAA completed 350 check rides with its rotary-wing students. It currently has a fleet of 21 helicopters (19 Robinson R22s and two Robinson R44s), and Brevik said the company doesn’t have any plans to change its fleet in the near future.
“We’re always looking at what is needed by the industry from new graduates, in terms of skills, knowledge, safety, and professionalism,” said Brevik. “If that requires us to look into other types, then we will. But the R22 and R44 are absolutely the best trainers for what the industry is doing right now.”