First Helicopter Flight Camp a Great Success

They may not be able to drive yet but they can fly a helicopter. Ten high school students from across the country participated in Embry-Riddle Prescott’s first-ever Helicopter Exploration Camp where they learned to fly helicopters and lived like college students for one week. The camp is the only academic, university-based helicopter program in the country.

“I can’t even drive a car so being able to fly a helicopter is something I’m proud of and will tell everyone about when I get home,” said Mohamed Dhaqane, junior in high school.

“If you like anything that flies, then this is the place to be. It’s been awesome!” said Nathan Fuentes, sophomore in high school.

Copter Campers

The Prescott campus offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Science with a focus on rotary-wing aircraft which prepares graduates for careers as helicopter pilots. The camp, modeled after a typical week for current Embry-Riddle helicopter students, helps young people decide if this is a career path to pursue. Each high school student will leave with at least three flight training hours in their flight log book.

“The camp activities are as diverse as the industry itself from academics to night vision systems to commercial helicopter site visits and of course helicopter flight in the Robinson 22,” explained Dawn Groh, Helicopter Program Chair.

The camp is appropriate for any skill level. Several of the campers had experience with fixed-wing aircraft but many did not and all were new to rotary-wing aircraft.

“I’m in the Civil Air Patrol so I’m definitely familiar with aviation, fixed-wing and gliders. I was looking for camps to do this summer when my dad found this one,” said Shannon Spencer, senior, and awardee of the Navajo Nations DOT summer programs scholarship. “Helicopter is very different. You have to give it your undivided attention but that’s what makes it more fun.”

Sophomore Braeden Swanson agreed. “I’d never been in a helicopter before this and I didn’t know anything about them but wanted to try. It’s very complicated because there’s so many systems to manage but also simple because you just lift off from one spot. I have a female flight instructor so it’s really cool to learn about this from a woman’s perspective. It’s been a great experience!”

When asked for highlights of the week, students overwhelmingly said learning to hover and flying with the doors off.

“Flying with the doors off is the best. When you bank and look directly over your shoulder you’re seeing the ground!” said Dhaqane.

“My cousin Adam and I did the ERAU fixed-wing camp last year and we both wanted to try helicopter. It’s great! Almost every day we go to a training area and practice things like hovering and landing. The instructor gives you the controls one at a time. You have to stay relaxed and do super slow movements while trying to anticipate what it’s going to do so you can correct for it,” said Fuentes. His cousin Adam Shapiro added they are both surprised and happy with how much they have been flying the helicopters.

“Flying helicopters is new to me. I wasn’t expecting it to be as much fun as it is,’ said Reese Fortune, senior. “The best part was when the instructor turned all the controls over to me!”

“I fly fixed-wing back home in Chicago but I was looking for a challenge,” said Wesley Sharon, junior. “This has definitely been exciting and challenging! Hovering, that feeling of floating is the best.”

Copter Campers 3

Rounding out the week was time with Embry-Riddle’s Aviation Career Services to learn more about career opportunities. They also took a field trip to the Native Air 4 Prescott helicopter air ambulance base at Yavapai Hospital to learn about careers in the emergency medical services industry.

“I chose this camp because I wanted to explore aviation to see if that is what I want to do as a career. Where else can you learn to fly a helicopter and check out the campus at the same time?” said Will Detterman, senior.

“Embry-Riddle is a college I’m considering so I took advantage of my high school’s Raisbeck Aviation High School summer program scholarship to come here. The staff has been really great. They care and I appreciate that they have shown an interest in me and where I’m from,” said Cassidy Fields, sophomore. “I’m taking fixed-wing flying lessons now but after this, I think I might like helicopter better!”

Senior Cayden Woods agreed.  “This is a great summer camp and I’m glad I get to be here another week for Spy camp too.”

At the end of the week, Groh was very pleased with the students and outcomes of the camp.

“The campers have impressed me with their questions and blew me away with their skills, especially in the helicopter flight simulator! Their enthusiasm is infectious – to quote one camper ‘this is totally radical!’  I am confident there are future industry leaders in our midst and I can tell you next year will be even better.”

Applications for Embry-Riddle Prescott’s 2017 Summer Programs will open November 1. Find out more about the Helicopter Exploration Camp, and other summer programs in fixed-wing flight, engineering, and security and intelligence.

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Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is the world’s largest, oldest and most comprehensive institution specializing in aviation, aerospace, engineering and related degree programs. A fully accredited university, Embry-Riddle is also a major research center, seeking solutions to real-world problems in partnership with the aerospace industry, other universities and government agencies. A nonprofit, independent institution, Embry-Riddle offers more than 100 associate, baccalaureate, master’s and Ph.D. degree programs in its colleges of Arts & Sciences, Aviation, Business, Engineering and Security & Intelligence. The university educates students at residential campuses in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Prescott, Ariz., through its Worldwide Campus with more than 135 locations in the United States, Europe and Asia, and through online programs. For more information, visit, follow us on Twitter (@EmbryRiddle) and, and find expert videos at