October 11, 2012

Aviation program to assist federal safety efforts

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale's storied aviation history is adding a new chapter that puts the emphasis squarely on the future of general aviation safety.

The Federal Aviation Administration late last month selected the University to be an affiliate member of the FAA's Air Transportation Center for Excellence for General Aviation. The Center for Excellence is a cost-sharing partnership between academia, the aviation industry and the federal government that will focus on research and testing efforts to improve the safety, accessibility and sustainability of general aviation.

General aviation refers to all flying aircraft except for military and the airlines. According to the federal government, more than 300,000 aircraft are registered to fly through the nation's skies.

SIU Carbondale is one of 10 affiliate universities involved with the "FAA Center of Excellence Partnership to Enhance General Aviation Safety, Accessibility and Sustainability," or PEGASAS program. Purdue University, The Ohio State University, and the Georgia Institute of Technology will lead the program, with Florida Institute of Technology, Iowa State University, and Texas A&M University also part of the core team.

The 10-year agreement has the FAA committing a minimum of $500,000 annually for the first five years.

Research and development efforts will cover a wide range of safety issues, including airport technology, propulsion and structures, airworthiness, flight safety, fire safety, human factors, system safety management and weather, according to the FAA.

"The FAA's selection of Southern Illinois University Carbondale's aviation programs to be part of the Center of Excellence for General Aviation is a proud moment in the history of our aviation programs," said David A. NewMyer, chair of the Department of Aviation Management and Flight. "This is a first step in the recognition of SIU Carbondale aviation as not only a program that has excellent teaching, outstanding aviation education facilities and well-prepared aviation graduates, but also as a program that is producing quality, practical research for the aviation industry. This grant will allow SIU faculty and graduate students to focus research efforts on such areas as safety management systems applied to airports, human factors in general aviation, alternative fuels research and other key areas."

SIU Carbondale faculty involved with the research will include NewMyer, Michael A. Burgener, associate professor and chair of the Department of Aviation Technologies; Dennis R. Hannon, assistant professor, aviation technologies; Bryan T. Harrison, assistant professor, aviation management and flight; Matthew W. Harrison, assistant professor, aviation technologies; Samuel R. Pavel, assistant professor, aviation management and flight; Michael F. Robertson, associate professor, aviation management and flight; Jose R. Ruiz, professor, aviation management and flight, and John K. Voges, associate professor, aviation management and flight.