Aviation Students Save Lives in Rescue Missions

Published: February 11, 2015 | Read Time: 2 minutes

Flight students and instructors with Upper Limit AviationJust seconds after the American history class began Chris Powell, rushes in out of breath. Plopping down in the only available seat, tan jumpsuit still on. Flipping open his book, class goes on as normal, all other students completely oblivious that Powell just took part in a helicopter rescue mission.

Powell, a Southern Utah University aviation student, along with other aviation students, has helped coordinate rescue missions that SUU flight instructors through Upper Limit Aviation (ULA) have flown to save 10 lives since the program took flight in August 2013.

“When we jump to a scenario based training to an actual situation, that’s what we’re all hoping for as students,” Powell said. “It’s always fun.”

Mike Mower, chief flight instructor for SUU Aviation, explained that his students get the unmatched opportunity to take part in rescue missions where they coordinate the mission and then help be “spotters” during the flight.

“If we are able to get the students in the plane, seeing what is going on and seeing what they would be doing on these missions once they receive their license, that’s a huge advantage,” he said. “Anything to get the students more involved on these missions is great experience for them.”

Rich Cannon, the assistant SUU aviation director, is frequently part of the search and rescue missions, explained that the experience these students get through the program and the missions is invaluable.

A few of the missions that SUU has taken part in have been in coordination with the local police force to find homicide suspects and juvenile runaways, including one where the girl who ran away was stuck in the mountains. Mower, along with help from his students, spotted the girl just before sunset and were able to get her the necessary medical attention, after only being notified they were needed 30 minutes prior.

“We pride ourselves on a quick response time and we want to get the students involved if we can,” Mower said.

Along with participating in rescue missions, SUU aviation students are averaging an outstanding 103 flight hours per day, equating to 11,000 hours per semester, putting them above other flight students in the country.

It’s not just the flight hours that SUU offers its students; it’s also the partnership between the flight school and SUU. This relationship allows students to receive their bachelor’s degree along with their pilot license, in comparison to all other flight schools in the state that only offer an associate’s degree.

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