Apply for an Aviation Scholarship Today!

Helicopter Foundation International (HFI) is pleased to announce the Commercial Pilot Rating and Maintenance Technician Certificate Scholarships will accept new applications beginning September 1, 2016.

Applicants for the Commercial Pilot Rating Scholarship must already have obtained their private license and be enrolled in a commercial helicopter rating program at an FAA-approved Part 141 school or international equivalent. Up to four scholarships may be awarded.

Applicants for the Maintenance Technician Certificate Scholarship must already be enrolled in a maintenance technician certificate program at an FAA-approved Part 147 school or international equivalent. Up to six scholarships may be awarded.

The application deadline is midnight EST November 30, 2016.

If you are enrolled in either pilot or maintenance technician training, review the scholarship descriptions and requirements in more detail at and consider applying for an HFI scholarship. Direct scholarship questions to [email protected].

Founded in 1983 and based in Alexandria, VA, Helicopter Foundation International (HFI) is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to preserving the rich heritage of helicopter aviation, improving its safety, and educating the next generation. HFI annually offers up to 19 scholarships to help support students studying to become part of tomorrow’s vertical aviation industry.

HFI Scholarship Helps Maintenance Tech Get Industry Foothold

Gregory Gilliland was always mechanically inclined and loved working on cars throughout high school. After graduation, he decided to attend the aviation program of the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport.

While there, Gilliland interned at CJ Systems Aviation Group in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, working in its Part 145 repair station under the supervision of licensed airframe and powerplant (A&P) technicians. He graduated from the Pennsylvania College of Technology in 2008 with a B.S. in aviation maintenance technology and a minor in management.

Gilliland wanted to pursue a career in helicopter maintenance, but his limited job experience made it difficult to land a position. He knew having factory training would give him invaluable experience and help in his job search. In 2008, he applied for and won the first-place award for the HFI Bill Sanderson Aviation Maintenance Technician Scholarship.

With the scholarship money assisting with travel and lodging expenses, Gilliland was able to attend the maintenance factory course of his choice: the one for the Airbus AS350 B2. He chose to study maintenance for that model because of its widespread use and the corresponding plentiful job opportunities.

Gilliland considers himself a lifelong learner and has continued to pursue studies related to his career. He holds current FAA A&P ratings, an FAA inspection authorization, and an FCC general radiotelephone operator license with radar endorsement. In addition to the AS350 B2 course, he has also attended the Eurocopter EC145 initial airframe course and Turbomeca’s Arriel 1 line maintenance course.

In 2014, Gilliland graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with an M.S. in management with a focus on aviation/aerospace industrial management. Since 2009, he has worked for Metro Aviation, one of the leading helicopter air ambulance operators in the United States.

Gilliland is currently the lead technician for Metro’s Sentara Nightingale contract in Norfolk, Virginia. Prior to that position, he was a field technician for the company’s Allegheny General Hospital contract in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Gilliland joined the HAI Technical Committee in 2014 as a way to help address issues facing the maintenance side of the helicopter industry. A side benefit to his participation in the committee “was the tremendous experience I gain from networking with maintenance managers from other facets of our industry.”

When asked about his future plans, Gilliland said he will “continue working to gain experience as a manager and helicopter technician. In the future, I see myself working for a helicopter operator in a maintenance manager role.”

In an industry where it can be hard for entry-level technicians to get a job, Gilliland says, “Never give up on your goals.” Through hard work and dedication, anything is possible.

Sally Murphy: First Female U.S. Military Helicopter Pilot

She thought she was going to be a history teacher. Then, in 1972, Sally Woolfolk — a young woman barely into her 20s — mailed in her army commissioning papers, setting her on a course to become the first female U.S. military helicopter pilot.

During her U.S. Army career, during most of which she used her married name of Murphy, she served with distinction, rising to the rank of colonel. “I turned to the army as a first step to financial independence and an adventure of my very own,” she says. And Murphy talks about these adventures in this month’s HFI Heritage Series interview.

No Girls Allowed

According to Murphy, growing up in the 1950s and ’60s was different. Although she was “a tomboy,” schools in the Kansas City suburbs, where her family lived, had no sports for girls. However, she learned from her parents that “I could do anything as long as I worked to make it happen.”

She went to Kansas State College, her “hometown” college, heading for a teaching career. At that time, women’s opportunities after college were pretty limited to nursing, secretarial work, and teaching, Murphy says. Then she saw a recruiting brochure, entitled Begin as an Executive, which spurred her to apply for the Women’s Army Corps (WAC).

“In the early ’70s, women were still excluded from being directly in the army,” she says. But that was about to change.

The Door Opens

Murphy became a WAC officer in intelligence, taking the military intelligence basic officer’s and tactical intelligence courses at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. Also attending the first course was Capt. Dan Murphy, a Vietnam-era helicopter pilot.

The two became close, and Dan encouraged her to apply for flight school. She describes him as her “cheerleader in bucking me up through many other challenges in the years to come.”

Dan and Sally married in 1974. Their son, Sean Murphy, followed both parents into the army and served in Afghanistan and Iraq before his death in 2009, following a parachute failure in a training mission.

During Murphy’s initial intelligence training, the army flight program was opened to female candidates. Picked by military intelligence and aviation to attend the first session of initial rotary-wing instruction that was open to females, Murphy ended up the only woman in the class at Fort Rucker, Alabama. After graduating, she became the first woman Army helicopter pilot.

She started training on the Hughes TH-55 Army training helicopter. The two-person craft was so small it was often described as being made by toymaker Mattel, but Murphy soon moved up to UH-1 Hueys. She later switched to the U-21 Beechcraft Queen Air, a turboprop with enough room for the equipment for signals intelligence work.

It was at this time that Murphy crossed paths with Jean Ross Howard Phelan, the founder of the Whirly-Girls, an organization that promotes women in helicopter aviation and HAI affiliate, and someone who Murphy regards as a role model.

“The commander of Fort Rucker, Maj. Gen. [William J.] Maddox, was a friend and strong supporter of her activities. Jean was on post for public relations purposes and she provided me with my membership credentials. I had not heard of this wonderful group of women helicopter pilots until then,” Murphy says.

“Over the years, I … became increasingly flattered to be considered a Whirly-Girl,” she says. “Several of their speakers rank among the best I have ever heard.”

An Army Career

Over the course of her career, Murphy had a wide range of assignments, which she discusses in detail in her interview.

She flew RU-21 aircraft on the border between East and West Germany while conducting signals intelligence missions for the 330th Army Security Agency Company. A later assignment took her to Fort Riley, Kansas, where she worked to prepare U.S. forces to fight with NATO forces against any Soviet attack. She worked on force modernization both at Fort. Riley and with V Corps.

After an European assignment, Murphy returned to the United States, where her responsibilities included the Army’s just-beginning UAV program. “I wrote, staffed, and received approval for the first Joint requirements plan for unmanned aerial vehicles,” Murphy says.

Her later posts included service with the IX Corps in Japan, where she was the corps aviation officer and commanded the 78th Aviation Battalion (Provisional). She later served as the chief of the Army Intelligence Master Plan and director of intelligence, futures.

After promotion to colonel, Murphy knew future assignments would not include aviation duties. She chose her final flight carefully.“I selected a Huey flight in Japan with a very good friend because it was most probable that it would be my last one forever.”

Murphy retired from active duty on July 1, 1999, after nearly 27 years of service, and moved on to a job in defense contracting.

Looking to the Future

Murphy’s advice for those starting a helicopter — or any — career is simple: get up every day and do the best you can.

“Set goals, but don’t limit yourself by adherence to a strict plan because the unexpected … can often present better opportunities and satisfaction,” she says.

As someone who broke through barriers to women in the military, Murphy says, “If you chose a career that is male dominated and historically closed to women, don’t be surprised when it is often harder than you think is fair.

“Never believe those who tell you something can’t be done or has never been done before, because that is looking to the past and you are the future.”