This fall, Middle Tennessee State University’s aerospace students will have the unique opportunity to use an aviation operations management solution, WSI Fusion, in their simulation lab.
MTSU is the first Ab initio, or beginning, training program to have access to this product, and students will graduate with a competitive advantage not offered at other aviation schools, officials said.
The College of Basic and Applied Sciences’ Department of Aerospace secured the donation of WSI Fusion from The Weather Company, an IBM Business, through an ongoing partnership with Southwest Airlines.
Southwest Airlines is a sponsor of MTSU’s NASA Flight Operations Center-Unified Simulation Lab, or FOCUS, which trains students in real-life scenarios, and provides a unique opportunity for seniors to learn how to work as a team to safely and efficiently run a virtual airline.
Weather plays a critical role in aviation, and this state-of-the-art software, which also is used by Southwest Airlines, will prepare and equip MTSU students for their future careers in aviation.
WSI Fusion is an advanced, proactive flight monitoring application that fuses public and proprietary weather information with real-time flight and airspace data into one common view and facilitates timely communication directly with aircraft. This allows users to leverage big data and feel more confident about operational decision-making.
In the midst of an April 21 aerospace career fair in the Business and Aerospace Building’s first-floor south lobby, MTSU officials took time to say “thank you” to their industry partners.
“This is an amazing opportunity for our students to gain familiarity with airline weather and dispatching software,” said associate professor Andrea Georgiou, who helped the department arrange the donation.
“MTSU aerospace students will have a major advantage over other college applicants when applying to the airlines. Students can put this on their cover letters and resumes that they’ve had this training”
Provost Brad Bartel called it a coup for Georgiou, the department and the students who will benefit from the advanced technology.
“We already feature one of the top aerospace programs in the country,” Bartel said. “This weather software donation will take our students to another level in terms of career advances and opportunities. They already will be trained in the industry’s most sophisticated software.”
Interim aerospace department chair Wendy Beckman said that “exposure to this product during their capstone experience will be a significant advantage to all aerospace students as they begin their professional careers.
“Our flight dispatch students in particular will benefit from familiarity with the software package as they apply for jobs,” she added. “We are very appreciative of Southwest Airlines and The Weather Company for allowing our students this opportunity.”
MTSU alumni with ties to Southwest attending included Capt. Ken Hamilton (Class of 1992, ’93), Larry Schadle (Class of ’92, ’93) and Whitney Dix (Class of 1999), all of whom helped secure the gift and have roles in the MTSU-Southwest relationship.
Georgiou attended a five-week dispatch training session offered by Southwest in 2015. After establishing a rapport with Southwest officials, Georgiou invited them to visit MTSU’s facilities.
“They came and saw the FOCUS lab and were really impressed with it,” she said. “They saw a platform with weather and wanted to improve the lab.”
The NASA FOCUS Lab emerged from a 2010 grant obtained by professor Paul Craig.
In the lab, students from all six aerospace concentrations must work together to solve issues that arise during their study shifts. To ensure the highest level of realism, aerospace and psychology faculty and graduate and undergraduate students monitor the simulations, implement real-world problems and disruptions, and conduct debriefings.
Georgiou will visit Southwest Airlines in early June for software training with senior Evan Lester, who oversees the NASA FOCUS Lab, is graduating May 7 and will return as a graduate student. The Weather Company and Southwest officials will return to campus later to view the product in use.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)