Tuesday, November 3, 2015
GI Flight Training Amendment Misses the Point
A proposed bill that would hamstring U.S. veterans’ option to use their post-9/11 GI Bill benefits for helicopter flight training tackles the wrong problem, rotorcraft industry groups said. H.R. 476 (the "GI Bill Education Quality Enhancement Act of 2015") would reinterpret GI Bill permission to veterans to get flight training on the government’s dime, requiring them to fund their own private pilot certificates and capping benefits for additional ratings at $20,235 a year. Rotorcraft industry groups call the proposed changes an overreaction to a handful of schools that were permitted by regional VA offices to train students in expensive models like the Airbus Helicopters AS350 and charge hundreds of thousands of dollars. Graduates of the more expensive programs aren’t necessarily better off, since many commercial helicopter jobs require a minimum of 1,000 flight hours or so—time the average flight school graduate must spend years building as an instructor. But “some 90% of training schools use Robinson helicopters,” said Chris Berg, director of Hillsboro Aero Academy in Hillsboro, Oregon. If pilots trained on advanced helicopters don't get an instructor job at the school where they trained, "they may have a tough time finding work."