The History of the Department of Aviation Technology
Purdue University Aviation has a rich and storied history. The first university to have its own airport, in 1935, Amelia Earhart was invited to join Purdue as a visiting counselor for women students. She loved her role, and the University, and developed what she called her "Flying Laboratory" at the university: a Lockheed Electra twin-engined airliner. She had the seats removed and extra fuel tanks put in their place. With these changes the plane had a fuel capacity of 1204 gallons which gave it a range of 4,500 miles.
You can find much more information about Amelia Earhart and her Purdue Aviation ties through the George Palmer Putnam Collection in the Purdue University Libraries.
In the 1940s the Aeronautical Engineering school developed a 4-year non-engineering program in Air Transportation. This program with options in flight, maintenance, and management utilized the university owned airport and aircraft as a laboratory. Included in these resources was Purdue Aeronautics Corporation, which operated the airport and a fleet of DC-3 aircraft. By the 1950s the engineering school determined that the Air Transportation program was not consistent with their future goals. The management portion of the program was absorbed into the then developing School of Management. The flight and maintenance options were in effect terminated. In order to make use of the available resources flight and maintenance-training programs were established in the Division of Technical Institutes (DTI). This was the beginning of what is now known as the Department of Aviation Technology.
A two-year program in Aviation Maintenance Technology (AMT) was created in 1954 followed by Professional Pilot Technology (PPT) in 1956. The emphasis of the AMT program was providing the student eligibility for the Civil Aeronautics Administration Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic certification. The PPT program utilized Purdue Aeronautics Corporation's (PAC) DC-3 aircraft and required the students to have a commercial pilot certificate prior to entering the program. Initially, both programs heavily utilized PAC equipment and facilities for laboratories. Although located on the West Lafayette campus the program was not considered a part of the standard university. Academic subjects were taught in special courses and aviation students paid extra fees.
Specialized course and laboratory development and integration into the University mainstream were major goals of the late 1950s. By 1960 all academic subjects were being taught within the regular university course structure. Beginning in 1961 aviation students paid only the standard university tuition and fees. A third program, Aviation Electronics Technology (AET), was initiated with the fall of 1961. Students graduating in the spring of 1962 were the first to receive associate degrees. Three significant events occurred in 1964; the development of the College of Technology, the development of an ab-initio flight training program, and the conversion of the existing flight option into a BS degree program.
The College of Technology was formed as an organizational structure for the various two-year associate degree programs including aviation technology. Also included in the school were the departments of Industrial Education and Industrial Supervision, both 4-year Bachelor of Science degree granting programs. The creation of the College of Technology enhanced the concept of the 2+2 curricula at a time when an increasing number of students were seeking a BS degree. Also of major significance was the designation of the aviation unit as a department of a school. This structure continues today and has allowed the continual growth and development of the Department of Aviation Technology. Significant events include:
- The demise of Purdue Aeronautics Corporation and its sequel, Purdue Airlines, Inc., during the early 1970s, forcing the development of additional courses and laboratories.
- A second BS degree option for aviation maintenance students initiated in 1977.
- The aviation electronics program terminated as an associate degree program in the late 1970s. Most content and resources relocated as advanced coursework in the aviation maintenance BS degree option.
- Development of the Aviation Administration (AAT) program during the mid-1980s.
- Aviation Maintenance Technology (AMT) changed to Aeronautical Engineering Technology (AET) to better reflect mission of program.
- Expansion of Aviation Technology coursework to the Indianapolis Statewide Technology site during the early 1990s.
- Initial academic accreditation of all AT baccalaureate programs by the Council on Aviation Accreditation (CAA) in 1997.
- Development of industrial partnerships.
- Full accreditation reaffirmation of all Aviation Technology B.S. degree programs by CAA (now known as the Aviation Accreditation Board International – AABI) in 2002.
- Renaming of Aviation Administration (AAT) to Aviation Management (AM) in 2003.