MTSU magazine’s summer 2023 edition celebrates MTS...

MTSU magazine’s summer 2023 edition celebrates MTSU’s flagship Aerospace Department

The latest edition of MTSU magazine celebrates Middle Tennessee State University’s flagship Aerospace Department, which is celebrating 80 years in flight — and charting its future course.

MTSU’s Aerospace Department began as a campus-based flight-training detachment for the Army Air Corps during World War II. Over the following decades, MTSU Aerospace expanded its scope far beyond pilot training to include programs in aviation management, flight dispatch, technology, maintenance management, and unmanned aircraft systems operations, as well as three aeronautical science master’s options.

Currently, MTSU has seven aerospace concentrations accredited by the Aviation Accreditation Board International — more than any American university except Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. 

Click the image to access a digital version of the summer 2023 edition of MTSU magazine. (Cover and photo by MTSU Creative and Visual Services)

Pro pilot has always been its largest concentration. Since 2015, enrollment surged from around 450 to 900 students, propelling a similar surge in aerospace majors overall — from 650 to over 1,200 in the same time frame. 

Such rapid enrollment growth requires an expanded faculty to meet the demand.

“We’ve hired every year,” said Tyler Babb, who coordinates the pro pilot concentration. “I can’t think of a year since 2013 that I didn’t serve on or chair a search committee for a new faculty member.”

Such growth translated into the need for more access not just to airplanes and flight instructors, but to airport space — an increasingly scarce commodity at landlocked Murfreesboro Municipal Airport. So, over the next three years, with $62.2 million in new state funding provided by the Tennessee General Assembly in 2022, Aerospace will move pilot training to the Shelbyville Municipal Airport off U.S. 231 in Bedford County, where there’s plenty of room to expand.

Dr. Chaminda Prelis, chair, Department of Aerospace
Dr. Chaminda Prelis

“There’s really nothing much around that airport; it’s mostly farmland,” Aerospace Department Chair Chaminda Prelis said. “And so not only will we have the capacity to establish what we currently need, but we’ll also have the space to continue growing.”

Such a historic investment helps fill a critical need for new talent at airports and airlines. Commercial airlines are increasingly partnering with universities on entry-level career programs in an effort to attract ready-to-work talent into their fold. As one of the top aviation programs in America, MTSU has collaborated on two such partnerships — first with Delta Air Lines and more recently with Southwest.

Other stories in the current edition include:

This screen grab from the summer 2023 digital edition of MTSU magazine shows Middle Tennessee State University music professor Raphael Bundage, left, and math professor Mary Martin, right, who are among several faculty profiled in the latest edition. (Courtesy of MTSU magazine)

• A report on the MTSU concrete industry program’s connection to NASA’s plan to establish a human settlement in space by 2035.

• An update on the ever-changing physical landscape of the MTSU campus, which continues to evolve and grow in positive ways.

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• Personal profiles of seven MTSU professors who have achieved the distinction of bringing more than $5 million in grants and contracts to MTSU over their careers at the university.

• Class Notes — updates on the status of other MTSU alumni around the globe.

Printed copies of MTSU magazine are distributed twice annually to approximately 125,000 alumni readers. Additional copies of the alumni-and-friends publication are distributed to interested stakeholders. 

A web-only, flip version of the entire magazine is also available online at

The new edition of MTSU magazine is also available on the Foleon digital publishing platform at— Drew Ruble (