OSHKOSH, WI (MTSU) — Middle Tennessee State University’s Department of Aerospace, stepping up its presence at EAA AirVenture, the largest air show of its kind in the world, celebrated about 50 of its alumni at an event Wednesday night.
Held at MTSU’s base on the grounds of the massive weeklong celebration of aviation, the event allowed Blue Raider alums to reconnect with faculty and staff and catch up on their alma mater’s latest plans for one of the top aerospace programs in the country.
AirVenture, held for the last half-century in Oshkosh, WI, is the annual signature event of the Experimental Aircraft Association, the annual convention and fly-in for the 200,000-plus member aviation organization. It is billed by EAA as the “world’s greatest aviation celebration” and is expected to attract more than 500,000 visitors from 80 countries.
The alums in attendance at the MTSU event ranged from pilots working for the nation’s top airlines and freight services to recent graduates, hoping to find mentors in the aviation industry.
“(EAA) brings together alumni from all across the country in their various aviation jobs and it is really exciting to have them get together, not only to network but reconnect with old classmates,” said Jared Bryson, development director for the MTSU College of Basic and Applied Sciences.
A team of about 10 students, recent graduates and flight instructors are working at the event. They brought with them one of MTSU’s recently refurbished Diamond DA40 training aircraft, stationed in front of a large tent with the MTSU Aerospace logo, and a popular conversation starter with the alums.
AirVenture is a magnet to pilots and aviation enthusiasts at all levels, which is why MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee urged his Aerospace Department to step up its game at the annual event. All kinds of aircraft, from jumbo jets to warbirds and ultralights to home-built planes, can be found on the grounds of EAA’s Whitman Regional Airport.
“Our aerospace alumni expect MTSU to take its place at premier aviation events like AirVenture,” McPhee said.
Recent graduate Ryan Hollinsworth, a professional pilot major from Nashville, agreed.
“It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the history of aviation at one airport,” he said.
Established in 1942, the MTSU Department of Aerospace is a signature department at the university and has grown into one of the most respected aerospace programs in the nation.
Fifteen full-time faculty members, 35 flight instructors, and over 700 majors place it among the largest of the nation's collegiate aviation programs. Students from 32 states and 16 foreign countries have been drawn to study aerospace at MTSU.
MTSU was one of only eight universities selected last year for the launch of the Delta Propel program, a fast-track program for qualified aerospace students to become Delta pilots.