When Silver State Helicopters abruptly declared bankruptcy in February of 2008 it was the final push for me to launch this website and begin blogging about Police Helicopters. My very first blog entry was published on 2-8-08 and was titled "Silver State Helicopters Dashes Student Pilot's Dreams."
Silver State was loosely tied to law enforcement aviation in a couple of ways. First the founder, Jerry Airola, was a former Law Enforcement Officer from the State of California and secondly, one of the false promises he used to pull in new students was promises of jobs as police helicopter pilots. Airola, through his company turned out to be quite the con artist. I had already reached the conclusion that there was a real lack of information on how one becomes a police helicopter pilot, and Silver State's false promises simply confirmed my belief.
One of Silver State's training locations just happened to be a few buildings away from our base at Gillespie Field in El Cajon Ca. I can remember driving to work on more than one occasion, and hearing a jazzy radio commercial about the massive shortage of helicopter pilots, and police helicopter pilots. Most people in the helicopter industry were not surprised at all when Silver State shut their offices without warning, and Jerry Airola slipped out of town.
In a nutshell their scam was to bring in the new student, help him get a student loan, then get him to turn most or all of the funds over to Silver State very early on. Silver State would then intentionally make it so difficult for the student to get any actual flight time, that many would throw up their hands and quit. The student loan money was never refunded.
A settlement announced this week with Student Loan Express, a member of the New York based CIT Group Inc., will forgive a total of $112.7 million in student loans which were made to student helicopter pilots enrolled in Silver State Helicopters flight schools.
The settlement involves a total of 12 states which are; California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.
This decision will be welcome relief for many former Silver State students many of whom had loans approaching $50,000 dollars, but no pilot certificate to show for it.
Sources: Las Vegas Review-Journal, Associated Press, Aero-News.net