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Aviation Safety

New technology developed by Ohio University engineers will give pilots a virtual view of the terrain outside their aircraft during bad weather or at night, a project that aims to improve air travel safety.

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  • October 8, 2002
    Safety in the Sky
    By Jennifer Kirksey Smith

    Ohio University's aviation program can trace its origin back to 1938 when the United States government anticipated a high demand for pilots forthe war effort.

    "The government basically contracted out the resourcesat universities to train new pilots," said Juan Merkt, chair of the Department of Aviation in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology. "We trained pilots for World War II. That is how we got started."

    When the war was over, many of thetraining programs remained at the universities and became the aviation programs we now see.Merkt said university-based aviation programs will continue to be strong because the aviation industry are looking for professionals with a well-rounded education who are leaders, team players and have strong communication and management skills.

    Airport"These skills are bestdeveloped through the college experience," Merkt said. "Pilots are flying at 500 mph, making last-minute decisions, sometimes ones that are life and death, in the most state-of-the-art office you can think of. Making those judgments requires someone with knowledgeand experience."

    The studentenrollment for the University's aviation program, which offers a four-year degree in aviationmanagement as well asaviation flight, has doubled over the last five years toits current total of 165. Merkt explains the reason for the jump as a general trend of how well the airline industry was doing the last few years; and a reflectionof how well the University competes with the four other Ohio schools with aviation programs.

    "We have a lot to offercompared to some of the other programs," Merkt said. "Students who go through this program can truly say they received a broad-based education from one of the top 50 schools in the United States. There are not many aviation programs that cansay that."

    While Merkt admits the downturn in the economy and the airline industry may affect enrollment in the next couple of years, he said this is just another cycle in an industry that still has a shortage of pilots for the next five to 10 years.He also said students in the program really have a passion for what they want to do.

    "Flying is something they have been dreaming about for years. When we see a downturn in the economy, airlines laying off employees, students see that as just a temporary obstacle, they are here for the long run."

    One of five students in the nation to recently receive the $5,000 Lawrence Ginocchio Aviation Scholarship from the National Business Aviation Association, Elliott Taub has been flying since he was a15-year-old taking lessonsin Cleveland. A senior pursuing a bachelor's in aeronautical science (flight option), Taub couldn't agree more that flying is a dream.

    "Flying was something I always wanted to do," he said.

    With the downturn in the economy, Taub said he and other students in the program are not deterred from pursuing their dream.

    "If you asked anyone in the program they would say, 'I'll fly something somewhere."


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