The genesis of EKU’s Aviation Program dates back to 1982, when former EKU Vice President Joe Schwendeman chaired a feasibility study that determined the Commonwealth needed a university-level aviation program to keep top candidates from leaving the state to pursue degrees in a rapidly growing field.
Schwendeman tapped Wilma Walker, then a professor of geography, to research and develop an academic aviation program, and EKU offered its first aviation courses in 1983. Ten students took private ground classes and three enrolled in private flight classes. When the University was granted approval for a minor in aviation in 1984, 18 students capitalized on the opportunity.
The program’s first full-time faculty member, David Henemier, joined the program in 1989 and taught in the program until retirement in 2009. Then, in 1991, EKU was approved to offer Kentucky’s first baccalaureate degree program in aviation.
In 1999, Tony Adams became the program’s second full-time faculty member and became program coordinator when Walker retired in 2000. James Adamson, who had taught part time in the program, joined as a full-time faculty member in 2001.
The program’s professional flight option is the only FAA-approved university flight program in Kentucky. Students who earn their degree in professional flight attain FAA certification as a private pilot, commercial pilot, an instrument rating, certified flight instructor-instrument and multi-engine ratings. Before graduation, they will log 250-300 flight hours via the fixed-base operator at Central Kentucky Regional Airport, now managed by EKU.
The aerospace management option, designed for students who want to work in aviation but not as a pilot, includes courses designed to prepare students for employment in a wide variety of aerospace businesses.
The program, housed in the Department of Applied Engineering and Technology in EKU’s College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), has graduated hundreds of students since its inception. Graduates have pursued careers as military and corporate pilots, flight instructors, airline captains, airport and airline managers, airline dispatchers, air traffic controllers and other positions in and outside of the aviation industry. Some work for major airlines, including American, Delta and Continental, and for package delivery services, including UPS and DHL. Others work in the U.S. military, at regional airports, for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and in law enforcement. Some have gone on to earn advanced degrees in aeronautical science and engineering, aerospace management, business, law and medicine.
In 2009, EKU’s aviation program received the 2009 Aviation Achievement Award, presented by the Kentucky Aviation Hall of Fame. President Doug Whitlock and several other representatives of the program and University were on hand for the enshrinement ceremonies at the Aviation Museum of Kentucky, located at Blue Grass Airport in Lexington. The Aviation Achievement Award recognizes institutions and organizations for their contribution to aviation. Previous honorees include airlines, general aviation associations, and training programs.