Should You Earn Your Helicopter Aviation Degree During Flight School?

While not all employers require an aviation degree, it does open the door to many exciting pilot career opportunities. It also shows a level of commitment and education greater than those without an aviation degree. 

The COCC Aviation Program provides a practical, supportive environment to start your career as a professional helicopter pilot. You’ll have the opportunity to earn private through certified flight instructor certificates, while also earning an Associate of Applied Science degree in Aviation Science. Enrollment in the COCC degree program also allows students access to low-rate federal financial aid, Pell grants, and other financing options.

COCC’s program allows most students to earn their AAS along with all their flight certificates in two years. Students wishing to obtain a bachelor’s degree have the option of transferring to either Oregon Institute of Technology or Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University upon completing the COCC program.

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Aviation Professional Pilot Helicopter Associate of Applied Science (AAS)

The Professional Pilot Helicopter Associate of Applied Science trains individuals to work as professional pilots in the air transportation industry. 

Students in the helicopter track will be eligible to earn the following FAA ratings/certificates: 

  • Private Pilot- Rotorcraft
  • Instrument – Helicopter
  • Commercial Pilot – Rotorcraft
  • Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) – Rotorcraft
  • Certified Flight Instructor – Instrument Helicopter (CFII)

You can learn more about the program’s entrance requirements, program requirements, and learning outcomes by reading the helicopter aviation degree course description in COCC’s course catalog.

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Leading Edge Flight Academy helped me get to where I am now in many ways!  First while a student I worked Line Service and then in Dispatch where I learned aircraft scheduling, maintenance coordination and the importance of ground support. Then when hired as a flight instructor I had great mentors that all taught me the valuable information that I now use flying every day!

Mario Armendariz

Mario Armendariz
Air Methods Corporation provides advanced air ambulance services as a flying ICU (Intensive Care Unit). The crew consists of one nurse, one paramedic, and the pilot. We respond at the request of EMS to rural scenes, and also transfer patients between hospitals. Our base in located in Osage Beach, Missouri. Air Methods has over 330 bases in 48 states. The education I received from Leading Edge and COCC prepared me in all aspects of flying, from air traffic-controlled environments to rural off-airport operations in the Cascade Mountain range. Flying in the mountains of Oregon prepared me perfectly to be an air ambulance pilot (now) and a bush pilot in Alaska (my previous 4 years experience). 

Will Lawrence

Will Lawrence
This is one big happy family of mechanics, pilots, and instructors. I’m very excited to become a professional pilot at Leading Edge Aviation and to invest in the rest of my aviation career.

Katani Best

Katani Best
I work for JR Helicopters as an OAS-carded fire and short haul helicopter pilot flying AS-350b3 Astars. I fight fires and do search-and-rescue for Sequoia National Park in California. In the winter months, I am on-call for Part 135 commercial work. I couldn’t have asked for better training than I received at Leading Edge Aviation and COCC. They prepared me above-and-beyond with both my flight training and knowledge-base for my career in aviation. On top of that, I got to do it all in amazing Central Oregon!

Jordan Kunhmuench

Jordan Kunhmuench
I’ve obtained my Private certificate, Instrument rating, and Commercial certificate. I went on to obtain my CFI/CFII, flying as an instructor and running Part 91 tours through the end of my training program. By the time I graduated, I was interested in using my experience to pursue a few different career paths. From Grand Canyon helicopter tours to working off-shore and gas or utility operations, the sky is truly the limit for COCC/LEFA graduates.

Levi Rogers

Levi Rogers
That job really inspired me to pursue a career as a pilot. I started flight school at Leading Edge in 2016. I felt like I was getting a late start with my career and didn’t want to take on a lot of debt, so I worked my winters in Antarctica to save money and spent the summer finishing a rating. I’ve been so happy with my flight training at Leading Edge and all of the instructors who have helped me along the way.  

Becca Voltin

Becca Voltin
After completing my flight training and instructing at LEA, I got the opportunity to fly tours in EC 130s and AS 350’s in the Grand Canyon. Those experiences prepared me for the 2020 fire season, where I am now fighting fire in Central Oregon.

Tori Palmer

Tori Palmer
Leading Edge Flight Academy, in partnership with Central Oregon Community College, is very happy to announce the new Instrument Rating Scholarship. We are excited to be joining the list of Whirly Girl contributors and help advance women pilots in the industry. The recipient will receive the required training for a helicopter instrument rating, gaining the invaluable skills necessary to become a better, safer pilot. At Leading Edge, we instill our values of safety and professionalism with each student we graduate through a course; helping the aviation community grow, one success story at a time. Director of Flight School Operations

Nicole Wolf

Nicole Wolf
I wanted to do something that challenged myself. Do something interesting, something that would benefit me for the rest of my life.

Jackson Jukin

Jackson Jukin
While pursuing my Private Pilot Certificate, I tried out three different flight schools that either closed their doors for good or wasn’t the right fit. LEFA was one of the few schools that could honestly stand by their GI Bill program. Their instructors accelerated my training and helped me achieve CFII in 9 months. Finding a good flight school is hard! I’ve talked to so many students recently that have been failed by poorly operated schools that don’t hold up their promises. ???????? (Tori Palmer a former student/instructor is now a Contract Fire Pilot for Helicopter Express!)

Tori Palmer

Tori Palmer
Leading Edge is known for its diversity and high standards. Not only did they give me the skill set needed to pursue my career, LEFA helped pave the path to my first turbine transition job – one of many steps needed to get me to where I am today.

Twila Contreras

Twila Contreras
I can always depend on Leading Edge’s high standards to provide quality pilots that excel within Papillon.

Tyler Carver, Papillons Chief Pilot

Tyler Carver, Papillons Chief Pilot
It was a really fun experience to be able to help ferry the MD500 across the country and fly through extensive airspace. It’s one of those things that, as an instructor, you always talk about and teach but not everyone has done it. I’m truly grateful to have had the opportunity. It’s definitely something I look forward to passing on to another person one day. It was nice to fly one of the coolest helicopters around too, so I can’t complain!

Cody Davis

Cody Davis