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University collaborates with NASA for aviation research

ATHENS, Ohio (May 5, 2004) -- The Ohio University Department of Aviation in the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology collaborated with NASA as part of a study on cockpit technology at the Fuller Aviation Training Center at Ohio University Airport.

NASA researcher Katherine Lemos demonstrates a weather system to students. Photos by Rick FaticaIn an effort to reduce the accident rate for aviation, researchers at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., conducted studies on real-time critical weather information that will be data-linked into the cockpit and displayed in different formats. Aerospace industry giants Lockheed-Martin and Honeywell International are partners in the research.

"This is a very unique opportunity for our program," says Juan Merkt, chair and associate professor of Ohio University's Department of Aviation. Merkt says he hopes this collaboration will help to form a bond with NASA that will allow for more research opportunities in the future for Ohio University students as well as faculty.

NASA selected 24 flight students from Ohio University and six Athens area pilots for the study titled "Optimal Looping Characteristics for Animated NEXRAD Images." Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., participated in the same study on an earlier date.

Each session lasted about four hours and there were two groups of participants each day. NASA Co-Principal Investigators Katherine Lemos and Jim Chamberlain conducted the study and they were pleased at how the process went.

"A lot of information and technology for smaller aircraft is too expensive and not possible," said Lemos. "Since convective weather is an important safety concern for private pilots, this study will help us determine what weather information we can provide to them in the cockpit to avoid accidents. We picked Ohio University because it has a great reputation and there is a concentration of pilots, and we are familiar with the great research that is being done by Jim Rankin and Ohio University's Avionics Engineering Center." The study used private pilots with less than 1000 total flight hours, a minimum of 50 cross country flight hours and a minimum of five flight hours as pilot in command within the last 90 days. "We used inexperienced pilots because we wanted to make sure that the technology we use will be also adequate and useful to them as well as experienced pilots," Lemos said. "The community pilots were asked to participate in order to make sure that the new technology can be used by pilots who may not have been through formal aviation training. We will also compare the results of the two groups."

Jim Chamberlain, Juan Merkt and Katherine Lemos. Photo by Rick FaticaLemos said the new equipment that is developed as a result of the NASA study will likely be introduced to the public within a year and that similar equipment is already on the market.

"It is important that the equipment that is produced is both useful and affordable for the beginning pilot," Lemos said. "In 2001, there were 361 General Aviation accidents reported where weather was a factor. Thunderstorms and associated weather hazards accounted for a significant amount of them, so we have to make sure that the products we develop can benefit all pilots who are in need of this technology in the cockpit."

Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Flight Training Magazine recognized Ohio University's flight training program as a quality program among medium-sized colleges in December 2003. The article recommended just six collegiate aviation programs, although there are more than 100 in the nation.

The Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, educates well-rounded professionals with both technical and team-project skills. The Russ College offers undergraduate and graduate degrees across the traditional engineering spectrum and in technology disciplines such as aviation, computer science, and industrial technology. Research areas currently receiving significant funding include avionics, distributed and secure computing, fuel cells, oil and gas pipeline corrosion, and environmental pipes and culverts. Named for alumnus Fritz Russ and his wife Dolores, the Russ College is home of the Russ Prize, one of the top three engineering prizes in the world. For more information, visit www.ohio.edu/engineering.

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Media Contact: Russ College of Engineering and Technology Director of External Affairs Colleen Girton, (740) 593-1488

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