John Stonecipher empowers veterans to launch careers that take them sky high. Literally.
Guidance Aviation, a company that specializes in high-altitude helicopter flight training, was honored today as the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2013 National Small Business Person of the Year. Stonecipher was selected for the award for his work in helping veterans train as professional helicopter pilots as a way to transition to civilian life. He founded the Prescott, Ariz.-based company in 1998.
Stonecipher’s love of things that soar started when he was just a child. “I was little boy, four or five years old, growing up in Pasadena, Calif., and the Pasadena Police Department flew red helicopters,” says Stonecipher. “I used to look up in the sky, and basically told my dad that was what I was going to do when I grew up,” he says after the awards ceremony, which was held in Washington, D.C.
Stonecipher’s aviation school, which has a waiting list for people anxious to get in, has partnered with the local community college and is the exclusive training program for the Professional Helicopter Pilot Program at Yavapai College. The two-year career school is a combination of classroom time, work in flying simulators and at least 200 hours of hands on time spent flying a helicopter. The school boasts a 90 percent job-placement rate for graduates.
Graduates go on to be helicopter pilots for a variety of programs including emergency medical service programs, charter tours or bringing workers to offshore oil and gas rigs.
Typically the school has 120 students, and more than half are veterans. Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, any veteran who has served for three years after September 11 is eligible for full tuition reimbursement, in addition to a book and living stipend to attend school.
- Airline Industry