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AEDC Commander: UTSI Aviation Program ‘Vital Asset’

The University of Tennessee Space Institute’s Aviation Systems program is an asset for Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) and vital to the aviation industry, AEDC Commander Brig. Gen. David Stringer said during a recent tour of UTSI’s Flight Research Center at Tullahoma Airport.

After Rich Ranaudo shared details of his short course to help pilots deal with hazardous icing of wings, Stringer, himself a licensed pilot, praised it as an example of helping the industry provide safer airplanes.

“This is a treasure right here in southern Middle Tennessee,” the general said, “and it is up to those of us who know of this treasure to share it.”

Stringer, in fact, requested the tour to share his knowledge of the Institute’s aviation program with AEDC’s vice commander, Navy Capt. Christopher Flood and David Jerome, executive director of AEDC. Captain Flood is a former student of the UTSI Aviation Systems program.

“This was a great opportunity for our faculty and staff to show the commander and his staff the capabilities of UTSI’s Aviation Systems program and how we can contribute to the flight test training needs of the Air Force,” said K.C. Reddy, acting dean for academic affairs.

Since it began in 1971, 301 students have received master’s degrees through the Aviation Systems program, which was headed by Ralph D. Kimberlin until his retirement last fall. Sixty-seven are enrolled in the AS program this semester.

Kimberlin told the visitors of UTSI’s “very good relationship” with Air Force and Navy test pilot schools. This relationship led to the off-campus, “distance learning” aspect of the program, which was key to its success, Kimberlin said, because so many of the students were traveling. “The Navy kinda drove this,” he said. UTSI also has AS centers at Patuxent River, Md., and China Lake, Calif.

Peter Solies, associate professor and acting program chair, told of various research projects, such as helping the FAA develop new lighting systems for airports and “special forces develop wind deflection methods for helicopters to deal with turbulence.” Other research has included jet wing flight test evaluation and work with the U.S. Forestry Service.

Solies bragged on the students, including nine from the program (and two others from UTSI) who have been chosen as astronauts, and noted that students have two flying clubs.

Kimberlin said aviation-related short courses average 25 students. Ranaudo, assistant research professor, has held two on-campus “icing” courses, which included use of one of the Institute’s two variable stability Navions. In November, 87 individuals from three aircraft manufacturers participated in a third “icing” course in Wichita, Kansas. While they did not choose to use the Navion, a simulator known as the “Ice Contamination Effects Flight Training Device,” was provided by NASA Glenn Research Center.

Stringer, noting that he got his private license early in his career, said such training is needed to “show us what we need to do to make our planes safer.”

Following a tour of the hangar and of UTSI’s aircraft, Rodney Allison, an adjunct professor and manager of the flight facility, took the general on a brief helicopter flight, and Ranaudo took Jerome into the air aboard a Navion.

Others participating included Joel W. Muehlhauser, UT assistant vice president and UTSI research dean, George Masters, a former instructor at Patuxent River and member of the AS thesis committee, Mike Leigh and Greg Heatherly from the Flight Research Center.