Middle Tennessee State University’s Aerospace Department returned to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, this week for EAA AirVenture, the world’s largest gathering of aviation enthusiasts.
Students and instructors from the College of Basic and Applied Sciences arrived Sunday for the weeklong aerospace celebration that attracts more than 10,000 aircraft to Oshkosh each year. Last year’s event drew more than 600,000 visitors.
MTSU President Sidney McPhee joined the group in showcasing the university’s recent investments in new training aircraft and the state’s recent decision to invest $62 million for a new flight training campus.
McPhee and his team met with major aviation employers like Delta, FedEx, Endeavor Air and Republic Airlines, and visited MTSU Aerospace industry partners, including Diamond Aircraft, Piper Aircraft and Garman flight navigation systems.
The president also connected with Brig. Gen. Regena Aye, vice commander of Civil Air Patrol, the volunteer civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force and a partner with MTSU Aerospace since 2014.
But the real opportunity, McPhee said, is gathering with alumni at MTSU’s large tent behind the EAA Control Tower at a barbecue reception for alumni and supporters at EAA space, which includes one of Aerospace’s DA-40 Diamond training aircraft.
“I truly value the opportunity to talk with our accomplished alumni, many of whom are captains for major airlines and executives at aviation companies, when they see our True Blue colors and logos,” he said. “MTSU, as a national standard bearer in aerospace education, needs a large and visible presence at this impressive aviation event.”
McPhee was eager to talk about the state’s decision to allocate money to build a state-of-the-art facility in Shelbyville to accommodate the MTSU Aerospace program’s current and expected growth. MTSU also recently purchased 10 additional Diamond trainers that will allow expanded training for students.
“So many described this as a game-changer for MTSU,” McPhee said.
The Experimental Aircraft Association, whose aviation celebration draws hundreds of thousands annual, has a local chapter in Middle Tennessee that many aerospace students join.
Emilie Blankenship, an MTSU senior who is set to graduate in August with a professional pilot and flight dispatch degree, joined the EAA Chapter 419 to be more involved in general aviation at the Murfreesboro airport.
One of the highlights of her membership with EAA is volunteering with one of the Young Eagle Flights, a program that gives youth ages 8 to 17 their first free ride in an airplane in hopes of inspiring kids in the world of aviation.
“I am proud to be a part of such an incredible organization that works to inspire young people and bring pilots together,” Blankenship said.
Aye, the Civil Air Patrol national vice commander, thanked McPhee, Basic and Applied Sciences Dean Greg Van Patten and Aerospace Chair Chaminda Prelis for resuming in-person activities with the Air Force auxiliary that were canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic.
MTSU, which renewed its partnership with CAP at last year’s EAA AirVenture, hosted almost 40 cadets from across the country in late June for the CAP National Cadet Engineering Technology Academy, one of the organization’s premier national cadet special activities.