Michigan Helicopters Benjamin Tong
Benjamin Tong, Chief Instructor Pilot for Michigan Helicopters, based out of Oakland County International Airport, in Waterford Michigan. I have worked and flown with Benjamin on many occasions and I have found him to be not only a top-notch pilot, but also one of the kindest guys I have met. So, it was a natural fit and no-brainer that he would be our choice as our “pilot profile” for our inaugural issue of “The Collective Magazine”
Ben received his Bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan. He followed that up with obtaining a Masters of Science degree in. Like most pilots, he had a love and fascination for flying, specifically...Helicopters. That fire was further fueled while he worked as a Paramedic in the Ann Arbor Michigan area. Working in and around landing zones as part of his job, his fascination for rotor-wing aircraft led him to flight school.
He used his job as a Paramedic to finance his way through flight school. Upon completing flight school in 2003, Ben flew as a private pilot for 6 years. In 2009, he became a flight instructor, then in 2013, to change things up from flying corporate and tours, he became an EMS pilot for such agencies as; Detroit Medical Center, Henry Ford and Promedica Air and Mobile.
In 2014, Ben and his wife Courtney, formed Michigan Helicopters - A flight school and tour company. Their office is out of Oakland County International Airport, located in Waterford Michigan. Michigan Helicopters is a part 141 flight school, as opposed to a part 61. Under Part 141, the school is FAA regulated to provide a more structured training environment, which allows for faster certification. Part 141 is also better for full-time students looking to make aviation a professional career. Furthermore, they can accept certain VA benefits.
Ben and Michigan Helicopters has a reputation as a premier flight school. When asked what makes a good flight school? Ben replied; “Having a dedicated flight instructor. Somebody that has the patience for their students and can balance that fine line between allowing students to correct their mistakes...And learn from them."
Many of Ben's students have gone on to successful careers in; law enforcement, EMS and other commercial and corporate fields. That is a testament to the dedication that Ben speaks of. Ben offers this advice to aspiring pilots. “Don’t give up. Fly as much as you can and don’t allow anyone to discourage you”.
Aircraft of Choice:
The aircraft of choice for Ben and Michigan Helicopters is the Robinson R44 Raven. This overhauled 2017 model is an IFR (instrument flight rules) trainer, which means it has the capability to train on instruments. They have affectionately named their R44, “BULLET.” Ben explains, “The R44 is very versatile, a workhorse. It seats 4,decent cruise speed, has an average payload and is the only one like it in the area.”
Besides offering flight training, he also provides scenic tours over many of the picturesque areas of SW Michigan, including; Downtown Detroit, the Detroit River, the St. Clair River, lower Lake Huron and many other beautiful spots that make Michigan so special. You will also find him flying tours at local airshows and events.