CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The very first helicopter now joins the fleet of seven aircraft at Marshall University’s Bill Noe Flight School.

Marshall President Brad Smith accompanied Bill Noe himself among other university officials in flying the new Airbus H125 turbine engine helicopter onto the grounds of the flight school at West Virginia International Yeager Airport Monday afternoon.

Smith said it’s just another milestone moment at Marshall in welcoming in the new chopper.

“The fact that we’re accepting our first helicopter in is a testament to the success of the program and the unbelievable potential that lies ahead, it is incredible,” Smith told MetroNews.

Marshall collaborated with Airbus Helicopters and Loft Dynamics in the functionality and design of Airbus H125.

It makes the eighth aircraft to join the fleet that is already made up of six Cirrus planes and one Piper Seminole. And Smith said this isn’t the last aircraft that Marshall plans to acquire.

“Our entire aviation program is based on advanced air mobility which means fixed-wing planes, it also means helicopters and it also means drones, so you’re going to see a fleet of all kinds of flying aircraft with Marshall’s ‘M’ on it,” he said.

Along with the helicopter, the flight school also welcomed in a new virtual reality simulator designed for flight training during the unveiling ceremony Monday at the school’s hanger.

Smith said the Airbus H125 is the safest, most advanced helicopter to train in. He said it’s multi-functional so it will easily be able to navigate West Virginia’s rugged terrain.

Marshall’s Chief of Aviation Operations Nancy Ritter said it wasn’t just a big day for the university but for the growth of aviation in West Virginia as a whole.

She said they are happy they can be a major contributing factor in that growth.

“The object of bringing the helicopter in here is to better serve the citizens of West Virginia and the surrounding area by providing them with line-of-sight opportunities into aviation that didn’t exist before Marshall really decided to pave the way for aviation in West Virginia,” Ritter said.

Ritter said there is currently a crucial need for helicopter pilots in the country as well as around the world.

She said they want to ensure they are providing the same opportunities for flight school students to acquire their helicopter ratings in the same way they do their airplane ratings.

Ritter said they also hope to encourage more students to become helicopter pilots to fill the need.

“Helicopters are so important for aeromedical services, particularly in a state like West Virginia that has terrain and weather-associated risks, we count on pilots to fly helicopters in for rescue and just to make sure that we’re all safe,” she said.

She said training courses for the new helicopter will get underway for students as soon as possible.

Ritter said the flight school already has several students who are waiting to transfer their airplane ratings into helicopter ratings. She said it’s important to give them multiple options to choose from.

“We believe in providing the ultimate number of choices to our students and there is no one training path that is right for everyone, but I think it’s incumbent upon everyone in higher education to make sure we offer a bunch of different pathways to best serve the students’ needs,” Ritter said.