The world’s first helicopter took flight in 1907. Thirty-six years later, in 1943, the first helicopter accepted in the U.S. Military, a Sikorsky R-4, was flown. Now, in 2023, a new aviation opportunity is taking off.
Thursday, April 19, in the bright morning sun , a small crowd gathers at Delaware State University (DSU ), a Historically Black College/University (HBCU), to celebrate the beginning of the Flight Training Program (FTP) in partnership with U.S. Army Cadet Command.
This program will allow 10 Army ROTC Cadets majoring as Professional Pilots to get their flight lab fees , totaling $121,000 per student, paid for.
“That is a major investment by the Army,” Lt. Col. (Ret.) Michael Hale, director of Aviation Programs at DSU said. “That is paying for flight lab fees and tuition like they normally do, this is huge.”
Hale was joined by fellow university staff member Dr. Michael Casson, d ean of the College of Business, who highlighted the university’s pattern of going against the grain as the second university in the nation to implement this program.
“This is truly a momentous occasion for Delaware State University and our aviation program,” Casson said. “Again, DSU and our partners have found ourselves in a familiar, courageous, and also trend setting place of being the first, the first and only HBCU, with an aviation program, now offering Helicopter Flight Training.”
Dr. Tony Allen, president of Delaware State University, shared Casson’s sentiments.
“At Delaware State University , trying to be the most diverse, contemporary HBCU in the country is not easy, but we do it. We try to do it with grace and wisdom and partners,” Allen said. “There are more students of color that are pilots, that come out of Delaware State University than any other place in the country …”
Brig. Gen. Amanda Azubuike, deputy commanding general of U.S. Army Cadet Command, echoed that fact stating the impact of the FPT on Army aviation.
“Currently, the number of women and minorities in our aviator fields are vastly under-represented,” Azubuike said. “In our Army, women and people of color make up a fraction of all aviators – and we’re working hard to improve that. Through programs like this, we’re gaining traction.”
“The future of aviation is continuing to make great strides here today and it’s a future to be excited about!”
One of the Army ROTC Cadets joining the program is Tejay Kelly, a junior at the university.
Kelly joined the Delaware National Guard after driving a friend to a recruiter’s office and hearing about the opportunities the Army could provide him.
The FTP will allow Kelly to change his major back to Professional Pilot, after switching to Aviation Management because of the costly flight lab fees.
“Opportunity presents itself, so I am going to take it,” Kelly said.
Kelly has dreamt of being a pilot since he was young and enjoys being in the air.
“[I like] the freeness of just being up there,” Kelly said . “You can take in all of earth and just see everything. It is really nice.”
Aviation isn’t the only thing Kelly enjoys, he also enjoys the values Army ROTC has helped to instill in him.
[Army ROTC] gives you purpose, it gives you direction which really helps you to build a better version [of yourself],” Kelly said.
About Army ROTC
Army ROTC is one of the best leadership courses in the country and is part of your college curriculum. Through classes and field training, Army ROTC provides you with the tools to become an Army Officer without interfering with your other classes. ROTC also provides you with discipline and money for tuition while enhancing your college experience.
Army ROTC offers pathways to becoming an Army Officer for high school students, current active-duty Soldiers, and for current National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers through the Simultaneous Membership Program.