Everything You Need to Know About SUU Aviation Program

Posted: March 17, 2021 | Author: Jaidyn Crookston | Read Time: 14 minutes


I’ve seen a lot of questions from potential students asking about SUU Aviation’s helicopter pilot program. It’s important to know all about a program before committing to one, so here’s an article that hopefully provides answers to all of your questions.

Southern Utah University of Aviation is located in Cedar City, Utah

Aviation student flying a helicopter

A question that  a lot of potential students ask is: where is the school located? Well, SUU Aviation is located in Cedar City, Utah. Cedar City is a great place to live, and is located about 3 hours south of Salt Lake City, UT and about 2.5 hours north of Las Vegas. Cedar City itself isn’t especially large, but 40 minutes to the south you’ll find St. George. 

Cedar City is a great place to live, especially if you love to explore and be outdoors. Cedar City is within a few hours drive of several national parks and monuments, including Zions, Bryce Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Capitol Reef, and the Grand Canyon. Right near Cedar City you can find plenty of outdoor activities, including mountain biking, hiking, skiing, climbing, and more. If you love to be outside, you’ll never be bored in Cedar City. 

A lot of students also ask if they would be able to commute to Cedar City to take classes once or twice a week. I would say that if you live in St. George or a smaller city nearby, this would be an easy option. However, if you live any further than that and want to commute, you’re going to find it very difficult to do so.

As a flight student, you’ll have classes either online or in-person, but chances are that you’ll have at least one in-person class that you need to be on campus for, as well as two flight slots per week. If weather or maintenance issues cause one of your weekly slots to be cancelled, you’ll have other opportunities to fly throughout the week, but finding a time to do so will be much harder if you’ve planned to commute to Cedar City only a few days a week. 

Honestly, I’d suggest moving to Cedar City for the duration of your flight training. There are plenty of apartment and housing options available for students and families, so finding a place to stay won’t be difficult. 

Read this article to find out why Cedar City is the ideal location to become a pilot. 

SUU Aviation School

SUU Aviation is attached to Southern Utah University

While some flight schools aren’t attached to any other schools, SUU Aviation is a university flight school. Southern Utah University of Aviation is attached to Southern Utah University, a four-year accredited university. 

Because SUU Aviation is attached to a university, you’ll be able to earn a degree with your pilot's license. This means you’ll have to pay university tuition and take some general courses, but having a degree will help you stand out when looking for a job and will better prepare you to fly in all circumstances. 

You can get an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree while getting your helicopter licenses

There are several advantages to training at a university flight school. You can learn more about these advantages here

Since SUU Aviation is attached to Southern Utah University, you’ll earn a degree with your pilot’s license. You can earn either an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree. As far as I’m aware, SUU Aviation is the only school to offer a master’s degree with a flight emphasis.

SUU Student doing maintenanceAn associate’s degree will take about two years to complete and by the end of these two years you’ll have all the pilot certifications needed to get a job. However, you can choose to continue your education and get a bachelor’s or master’s degree. 

If you have other interests besides aviation, you can incorporate these interests into your bachelor’s degree. Once you’ve gotten your associate’s degree with a flight emphasis, you can get a bachelor’s degree in whatever field you choose. This means that you can get your associate’s degree in aviation and be fully qualified to fly, and then get a bachelor’s degree in business, English, finance, or whatever you want. This can be especially helpful in case someday you’re no longer able to fly helicopters or you want to boost your resume and increase your odds of getting hired. 

The helicopter program takes less than 2 years to complete 

That’s right, you can be a certified helicopter pilot in less than two years. It only takes 5 semesters to earn all your helicopter licenses plus an associate’s degree . Once you’ve earned your licenses and associate’s degree, you can either enter the workforce and start earning money as a pilot, or you can continue your education and get a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Each further degree will add another two years to your training. 

SUU Aviation is the highest altitude collegiate flight school in the nation

SUU Aviation is the highest altitude collegiate flight school in the nation. SUU Aviation is located at 5,622 feet above sea level. The higher you are above sea level, the harder it is to fly a helicopter. By learning to fly at such a high altitude, you’ll be prepared to fly anywhere in the world. 

Because of the high altitude, Cedar City experiences a lot of diverse weather conditions. You’ll learn to fly in the rain, snow, fog, sun, hail, and more. This really will prepare you to work and fly anywhere in the world, and is extremely valuable training. 

Southern Utah University helicopters

You’ll get lots of advanced training

Southern Utah University of Aviation wants to prepare you to be as employable as possible. That’s why this school offers so much advanced training. Not only will you earn your private license, commercial license, instrument rating, certified flight instructor (CFI) license, and certified flight instructor instrument (CFII) license, you’ll also receive advanced training in the following areas:

  • Turbine Transition
  • External Load
  • Mountain Operations
  • Night Vision Goggles

Having this advanced training will prepare you to work anywhere in the aviation industry. You’ll be set apart from the competition when looking for jobs, and you’ll have the skills necessary to tackle any situation and fly safely. 

By the end of your training you’ll have about 200 flight hours

It’s no secret that flight hours are a big deal in the aviation industry. A pilot with few flight hours won’t be able to get a job very easily, if at all. That’s why at SUU Aviation you’ll graduate with at least 200 flight hours. 

To get a high paying job as a pilot, you’ll need around 1,000 flight hours. Yes, after your training you’ll still need a lot more flight hours before you qualify for a high paying job, but most flight schools only give their students 100-150 flight hours. With 200 flight hours, you’ll be qualified to work as a flight instructor or a tour pilot, both of which will dramatically increase your flight hours and help you build them quickly. These are the two most common first jobs for helicopter pilots, and attending SUU Aviation will put you well on your way to earning money as a pilot.

SUU Student flying an aircraft

You’ll earn all licenses needed to get a job right out of school 

SUU Aviation will help you get all the licenses you need to get a job right out of school. If you are just planning to fly an airplane or helicopter for fun, then all you’ll need is a private pilot’s license. If you want to work as a pilot, though, you’ll need your private license, commercial license and instrument rating. To set yourself above the competition and get a job, it’s also great to have your Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) license and your Certified Flight Instructor Instrument (CFII) license. At SUU Aviation, you’ll earn all five of these licenses and ratings in under two years.

Having your CFI and CFII licenses is especially important if you want to work as a flight instructor. This is one of the two most common first jobs for a pilot, so getting these licenses is definitely worth it. If you’re able to get a job as an instructor, you’ll basically be paid to build your flight hours and get more experience, which is crucial in the aviation industry. 

Read this article to learn about the differences between a private pilot’s license and a commercial license, and to figure out which licenses you’ll need. 

SUU Aviation focuses on rotor training just as much as on fixed wing training

Most flight schools focus specifically on fixed wing training and sometimes add rotor training as an afterthought and at an extra cost. SUU Aviation was designed with training helicopter pilots in mind, and focuses just as much on rotor training as it does on fixed wing training, if not more. And rotor training comes at no additional cost. The rotor program is separate from the fixed wing program and has quickly become one of the best helicopter training programs in the world.

That’s probably why SUU Aviation trains about 10% of the nation’s incoming helicopter pilots!

SUU Aviation trains 10% of the nation’s graduating helicopter pilots

That’s right, SUU Aviation trains 10% of the nation’s graduating helicopter pilots. That’s more than any other single-location flight school. 

One of SUU Aviation’s top priorities is to help helicopter pilots succeed and to provide the industry with the helicopter pilots it desperately needs. Clearly, SUU Aviation is doing something right to graduate so many helicopter pilots each year. 

SUU Student during practice

SUU Aviation also has an AMT school

SUU Aviation isn’t only a flight school. It is also an Aircraft Maintenance Technician (AMT) school. SUU Aviation knows that the aviation industry is in desperate need of both pilots and technicians, so in January of 2020, SUU Aviation opened a brand new AMT program

Not only that, but SUU Aviation is the only AMT school in the nation to currently be authorized by the FAA to train maintenance students with an updated curriculum and using new techniques and materials. This is huge for the school, and benefits the flight program as well. 

SUU Aviation doesn’t only have an AMT school, they also employ their own maintenance technicians. All helicopter and airplane maintenance for the school’s aircraft is completed by their own in-house maintenance team. AMT students have a chance to be hired by the school once they graduate with their associate’s degree, just like helicopter students have a chance to be hired as a flight instructor.  

SUU Aviation has a lot of connections in the aviation industry

SUU Aviation works extremely hard to build and keep connections in the aviation industry. Right now, SUU Aviation has partnerships with Sundance Helicopters, Whirly Girls, and more. Having a lot of industry connections ensures that you have a natural stepping off point when you graduate. 

SUU Aviation has a fleet of over 20 helicopters

Many flight schools have only a few helicopters that students are expected to share. This just results in most students not getting enough flight time and not feeling prepared when it’s time to graduate. 

At SUU Aviation, you won’t have this problem. With over 20 helicopters, SUU Aviation has the largest collegiate fleet of helicopters in the nation for a single-location flight school. Because of how many helicopters SUU Aviation has, students are able to fly more often and with fewer scheduling problems than at other flight schools. Yes, sometimes a student’s flight slot has to be moved because of weather conditions or unexpected maintenance problems, but with over 20 helicopters, you’ll soon be able to schedule another flight and get those flight hours.

One of the view from SUU helicopter

SUU Aviation is associated with the Chuck Aaron Flight Academy

In 2020, the Chuck Aaron Flight Academy moved to Cedar City, UT and joined with SUU Aviation. The Chuck Aaron Flight Academy is designed to teach pilots how to recover from Inadvertent entry into Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IIMC). This is an extremely dangerous occurrence that results in a pilot’s and/or passenger’s death more often than is acceptable. That’s why Chuck Aaron created his flight academy.

While the Chuck Aaron Flight Academy is not offered to regular flight students, having the academy located at SUU Aviation benefits these students and gives you a glimpse of what working as a pilot may be like. The Chuck Aaron Flight Academy is instead designed for pilots already in the industry who need the training for their job. Pilots must be recommended by an employer and go through rigorous training. Who knows, maybe someday you’ll be back for this life-saving IIMC training. 

You can serve as part of the Iron County Sheriff's Air Operations Division

SUU Aviation is part of an amazing program called the Iron County Sheriff's Air Operations Division. Basically, advanced students and instructors at SUU Aviation are able to volunteer their time to assist the county sheriff’s department in aerial surveillance, pursuit, drug interdiction, and search and rescue efforts. Helping out with this program will look amazing on your resume and will give you great practical experience. As far as I know, SUU Aviation is the only flight school with this kind of program.

SUU Student grabbing water using an helicopter

You’ll have great instructors and individual instruction

SUU Aviation employs great instructors, and many of them graduated from this program themselves. I think it really says something about the program that so many of the graduating students want to stay here and continue working. 

Not only that, but class sizes at SUU are extremely small. The average class size for the regular university classes is less than 20 students, but the class sizes for aviation classes are even smaller than that. This means that your instructors and professors will have time to work with you personally if you’re struggling or have questions. SUU Aviation wants you to have a personalized, individual experience, and one way they do this is by having small class sizes.

You’ll be charged by the semester, not by the hour 

Many flight schools charge students by the hour, but because SUU Aviation is attached to a university, you’ll be charged by the semester instead. This is a good thing because everything you’ll be paying for is included in the total price. Many flight schools also charge students instructor fees, hourly fees, fuel fees, and more, but because you’re paying by the semester you won’t have to worry about this. The price you’re given at the beginning of the semester is the price you’ll pay. At SUU Aviation, you know what you’re paying for up front and won’t be charged any extra fees. 

To find out how much it’ll cost to become a pilot, take a look at the pricing sheet for the aircraft you’ll be flying. Keep in mind that if you weigh more than 190 pounds, you’ll be flying in the R44 Raven instead of the R44 Cadet, and this will raise the price a little bit. You can find these pricing sheets by visiting the SUU Aviation website or contacting the school. 

SUU has very affordable tuition

If you’re worried about having to pay university tuition on top of paying for the flight program, don’t worry too much. Compared to other universities, Southern Utah University has very affordable tuition. In fact, in 2019, SUU was ranked at #22 in lowest student debt out of all the public universities in the United States, and the average student loan debt for SUU students is half that of the national average. 

There are lots of financial aid options and scholarships available

As a university student, you’ll have access to thousands of scholarships (academic, flight-specific, and miscellaneous), as well as federal financial aid and loans. You can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year and find out if you’re eligible for federal pell grants and student loans. 

Don’t let the idea of finances hold you back from fulfilling your dream. As an English major and student writer at SUU, I’ve been able to pay for nearly all of my schooling with scholarships and pell grants. It isn’t impossible! You just need to be proactive and seek out every funding opportunity you can find. I know you can find a way to pay for flight school if you look for opportunities and take out student loans if you need to. 

That’s everything you need to know about SUU Aviation’s helicopter pilot program. If you have any questions or want to learn more about the program, feel free to contact SUU Aviation or come in for a tour. If it’s your dream to become a helicopter pilot, don’t let anything stop you. You can get started on your future career today by applying to the program or requesting more information. 


Produced by SUU Aviation
The university's fleet includes 16 airplanes, 23 helicopters by the end of 2020, and state-of-the-art maintenance training facilities. SUU Aviation offers advanced and relevant flight training in the safest and most efficient way possible. The program continues to be on the cutting edge of the industry, training tomorrow's aviation leaders. With SUU Aviation, you’ll get a high-quality education and have the experience needed to get a job as a mechanic when you graduate. 

Tags: Aviation

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