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Marshall University unveils helicopter for aviation program

Companion flight simulator installed for future use 

West Virginia Press Association

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – On May 13, Marshall University, in collaboration with Airbus Helicopters Inc. and Loft Dynamics, celebrated the arrival of inaugural equipment set to propel the university’s aviation program forward, encompassing rotor-wing education. 

In a ceremony at the Bill Noe Flight School, located at West Virginia International Yeager Airport, the H125 single engine helicopter arrived right on schedule for the 2 p.m. unveiling ceremony. The aircraft was piloted by Noe and Nick King, senior manager with Airbus, along with several passengers including Marshall University President Brad D. Smith and university mascot Marco.  

“We are incredibly excited to add this amazing aircraft to our aviation program,” said Smith. “We extend our heartfelt gratitude to our esteemed partners at Airbus for their unwavering support and collaboration, which have propelled Marshall’s aviation program to soaring heights, making it one of the premier flight schools in the country. I cannot wait to see what tomorrow holds.”  

Airbus Helicopter, a premier, global manufacturer of air and space products, partnered with Marshall to provide the helicopter, which is considered an industry workhorse for multiple missions including rescue.  

“The future success of the rotorcraft industry depends on providing the next generation with high-quality education and training, and Marshall University has become the benchmark for doing so,” said Treg Manning, vice president of sales and marketing for Airbus Helicopters North America. “The H125’s mission versatility and advanced safety features make it one of the most popular helicopters worldwide, and we are confident it will serve as an invaluable tool in the training of students at Marshall University.”  

Bill Noe, Marshall’s chief aviation officer and namesake of the flight school, said the new partnership with AIRBUS is extremely exciting.  

“Being able to partner with a name synonymous with aviation excellence like AIRBUS is something that we are very proud of,” Noe said. “These helicopters will provide training for up and coming helicopter pilots and transitional and continuous training for helicopter pilots associated with Marshall’s aviation program in the region and beyond.  

“Adding this helicopter to our current robust fleet, as well as a futuristic simulator for rotor-wing training, will allow current and future aviators to pursue a wider range of certifications. These skills and ratings will position pilots in various industries that use airplanes and helicopters. In an area like West Virginia and Appalachian where the terrain is challenging, helicopters are incredibly important to business and health care,” he said.  

The university has already employed its first certified helicopter instructor. Bruce Ray, a former career military helicopter pilot, industry professional and Marshall University graduate, has logged thousands of hours flying the H125.  

“We are fulfilling the flying dreams of students whose parents and grandparents wished for that opportunity,” Ray said. “I’m looking forward to using the aircraft for training and anticipate there will be a lot of people interested.”  

Ray and Noe praised the work of Nancy Ritter, Marshall’s chief of aviation operations, for her work in getting the rotor training opportunity off the ground.  

In addition to the new helicopter, the university is partnering with Loft Dynamics to offer aviation instruction through a innovative simulator. The equipment is currently under Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) review and once approved, most likely this summer, will become the first in the nation to use innovative virtual reality technology in commercial aviation training.  The simulator will offer a variety of experiences for students.

During the ceremony, Noe introduced the first student who will be trained as a helicopter pilot.  Gabe Mileto is currently a student at North Marion High School in northern West Virginia and is expected to be a future aviator. 

Marshall offers two career paths with access to worldclass facilities and expert instruction. The flight school prepares students through a four-year pilot program, and the Aviation Maintenance Technology program trains mechanics.  Both programs lead to FAA certification.  

For more information on Marshall’s aviation program, please visit www.marshall.edu/aviation.  

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