Taking to the Skies with Hillsboro Heli Academy

Nov 11, 2019

In 1980, Hillsboro Helicopters had one Robinson R22 to their name. Fast forward 20 or so years, and Hillsboro Heli Academy (HHA) now houses an impressive fleet, comprising of 19 x R44s and two R22s.

Hillsboro has a global presence, training pilots from all corners of the word, with students originating from Australia to Norway, and have approximately 100 helicopter students on campus. With four locations under the Aero Academy umbrella, Troutdale, on the Eastside of Portland, Oregon, is home to the exclusive helicopter training facility.

Jared Friend, the General Manager of HHA, has worked with Hillsboro for almost a decade, and seen a lot of change not just in the company, but the industry as well. In the dynamic industry of aviation, he has seen a shift in the demand from fixed wing to helicopter pilots, and his recent trip to Europe confirmed this. “They're all just clamouring for pilots right now,” he says, “and we’re seeing the same demand from the States.”

With this shift, Jared saw an opportunity, and took the initiative to start creating new pathway programs for graduates with several different operators, where they would get guaranteed interviews, and preferential hiring. “It usually just takes a little while for the industry to kind of catch up,” Jared notes, “and these companies are really, really needing pilots right now.”

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He started his own training almost two decades ago, and throughout his flying career, his experiences have seen him fight fires, help clear the way with logging, and aerial photography. Jared’s passion however is in training, and seeing the next generation of pilots succeed in the skies is what gets him out of bed every day. “One of the things that I enjoy is that I not only get someone through their training, but also make sure they're successful after they leave, too. We do a lot of networking for graduates, and do our best to make sure they can get a job at wherever their dream is to fly. That’s what I love to see.”

The results speak for themselves - Jared met up with one of his past students in Austria during his trip to Europe. “[He] is the safety manager of a helicopter EMS company called OAMTC, one of the largest helicopter EMS operators in Austria, and is the safety manager and a pilot there. It's always exciting to see those students succeed.”

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Safety is paramount for flight schools, and to Hillsboro, it’s more than just a way of flying, it’s “part of their curriculum and a key component of each student’s training.” Safety, in its own essence, is more than just having an awareness when flying an aircraft. It starts with the academy’s culture, and goes right through the education stream - whether that is in reporting, maintenance, theory, or flight planning.

As students are often flying solo with limited hours of experience, having an awareness of where they are located gives reassurance for both the instructors and students alike.

“We use Spidertracks for flight following, and watching students on solo flights. We are also able to do post flight reviews and use it for training purposes and discuss the flight with the instructors. Another benefit is the ability to see the exact flight path, as we like to ensure we fly neighbourly.”

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Jared recalls occasions where the benefits of flight following has given the team peace of mind, when there’s been a landing at an off-airport location.

“We've been able to use Spidertracks to locate the exact location of the aircraft so that the mechanic can get there, and make the repair and then they fly away. It just really gives us peace of mind, knowing when our aircraft are out there, and we know exactly where they're at.”

With Jared’s leadership, passion, mentorship, and care, the new generation of pilots and future of the helicopter pilot industry are in good hands.

To see how Spidertracks could benefit your business or training operations, talk to us today and schedule a free demo.

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