OSHKOSH, Wis. — Middle Tennessee State University’s Department of Aerospace returned to Wisconsin this week for the world’s largest gathering of aviation enthusiasts, showcasing its recent investments in new training aircraft and the state’s recent decision to invest $62 million for a new flight training campus.
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, as well as students and instructors from the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, arrived July 24 at EAA AirVenture, a massive weeklong aerospace celebration that attracts more than 10,000 aircraft to Oshkosh each year. Last year’s event drew more than 600,000 visitors.
McPhee and his team met with employers, including Delta, FedEx, Endeavor Air and Republic Airlines. They also 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 the Civil Air Patrol, the volunteer civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force and a partner with MTSU’s Department of Aerospace since 2014.
But the real opportunity, McPhee said, is the chance to meet and reconnect with alumni at MTSU’s large tent behind the EAA Control Tower. The university will host a barbecue reception Wednesday, July 27, for alumni and supporters at EAA space, which includes one of the department’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.”
Many alumni stopped by to congratulate McPhee on the decision by Gov. Bill Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly to allocate $62 million to MTSU for a state-of-the-art facility to accommodate the 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,” he said.
Matt Ivey, a professional pilot graduate and flight instructor from Murfreesboro, said it was a thrill just to be in Oshkosh.
“It was an honor to meet the general and discuss how to bring aviation to younger generations,” said Ivey, a former CAP cadet.
MTSU senior Emilie Blankenship of McMinnville, Tennessee, is set to graduate in August with a professional pilot and flight dispatch degree and a minor in management. She currently serves as a flight instructor and stage check instructor.
“I joined the EAA Chapter 419 while still a student at MTSU to be more involved in the general aviation at the Murfreesboro airport,” Blankenship said. “Since joining I have had the pleasure of volunteering with one of their Young Eagle Flights on Saturdays and enjoying the company and community of my fellow aviators.
“I am proud to be a part of such an incredible organization that works to inspire young people and bring pilots together.”
Aye, the CAP national vice commander, thanked McPhee, College of 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 by the pandemic.
“It’s wonderful to work with strategic partners like MTSU to shape futures and inspire the next generation of aerospace leaders,” Aye said.
“It was wonderful to see former cadets on the MTSU team and meet the leaders who build that future bench through their support of E-tech Academy, cadet leadership training, and encampments.”
MTSU, which renewed its partnership with the 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.
— Andrew Oppmann (Andrew.Oppmann@mtsu.edu)