Aeronautics expo returns to Kent State

Attendees had the chance to see training equipment. 

Nick Lavrisiuk

Planes, helicopters and exhibits populated the Kent State University Airport on Sept. 7 at the annual Aeronautics and Engineering Expo.

The event, hosted by the College of Aeronautics and Engineering (CAE), allows attendees to experience some of the technology used by students and faculty to prepare for future endeavors in aviation.

Although an annual event, the expo was not held in 2018 due to construction on the FedEx Aeronautics Academic Center, which now occupies land across from the main hangar.

The building opened to the public on Sept. 6 following a ceremony attended by representatives of both Kent State and FedEx Corp., whose $6.5 million contribution helped fund construction of the building.

Christina Bloebaum, the dean of the College of Aeronautics and Engineering (CAE), opened the ceremony on Friday by expressing gratitude to FedEx and the CAE for their help in advancing aeronautics and engineering technology.

Bloebaum was in attendance at the expo. It was her first experience due to no event being held the year prior.

“Last year we did not do it,” Bloebaum said. “With the building under construction and the transition between (former Dean Robert Sines) and myself, there was a gap year. So this is my first. It’s exciting.”

Expo attendees were able to tour the academic center in its entirety. The academic center contains several collaborative spaces for students, including several flight simulations.

“It’s a nice functional space (to fit) everyone under one roof,” said Maureen McFarland, the associate dean of academic affairs in CAE. “We’re using every inch of it right now. We’re almost at capacity now, which is great.” 

While the new building may have taken center stage at the expo, several other events took place throughout the day. 

A training aircraft with Kent State President Todd Diacon’s name emblazoned on the side was unveiled during the expo. This continues a tradition beginning in 2006 after President Carol A. Cartwright was honored with a training aircraft bearing her name.

Maj. Kyle Busch of the United States Marine Corps spoke in a hour-long seminar titled “Anatomy of Night Time Environment Flying.”

Busch has flown President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and former President Barack Obama and described his experiences following the presentation.

Hours later, Dean Bloebaum moderated a panel called “Breaking Barriers: Celebrating Women in Aeronautics and Engineering.” Attendees at the panel included Maj. Sarah Deal Burrows, the USMC’s first female aviator and Capt. Stephanie Johnson, the first female, African-American captain with Delta Airlines.

Susan Johnson, the Engineering Program Manager at NASA, and Molly Merryman, Ph.D., who is the director of the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality and the vice president for the International Visual Sociology Association were also included in the panel.

Both panels took place in the academic center’s new classroom.

Several aircraft populated Andrew Paton Field, with the main attraction being “Hairless Joe,” a refurbished Douglas C-47 Skytrain provided by the Yankee Air Museum. Attendees could partake in a short flight on the plane.

Kent State’s Precision Flight Team also provided flights to attendees during the event.

Many of the Expo’s exhibits and demonstrations were held inside of the airport hangar. Companies such as Goodyear, Rockwell, and Republic Airways held exhibits inside the hangar.

William Kaib attended the Expo as both a flight instructor and a recruiter for Republic Airways.

“We fly for American, Delta and United,” said Kaib. “Small flying that the bigger airlines don’t want to do, they delegate that stuff to us. We’re just kind of doing the regional flying.”

Kaib previously attended the expo in 2016 and 2017.

“This is actually my third time here,” said Kaib. “So far, I think it’s going great. Obviously the new building kinda draws in some more people but I think so far, everything’s cool.”

Other exhibits in the hangar included drone demonstrations, child-friendly science projects, and mixed reality pilot training.

Assistant Professor Chang-Geun Oh, Ph.D., demonstrated virtual reality pilot training at both the expo and the academic center’s grand opening. Mixed reality was also demonstrated using HoloLens, a headset simulating mixed reality developed by Microsoft.

“I’m doing this experiment to evaluate the pros and cons of virtual reality for training purposes,” said Oh. ”I’m trying to develop third-person views for aviation displays.”

While virtual reality provides a digital look into the world of aviation, it cannot compare to the generations of flight on display at the expo.

Nick Lavrisiuk is the construction/Master Plan reporter. Contact him at [email protected].