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In December, 1960 the assets of Midwestern Aero Services, a Fixed Base Operator based at Southern Illinois Airport, were purchased including several aircraft and their lease to operate at the airport. Southern Illinois University then created the Air Institute and Service to replace Midwestern Aero Services as the FBO on the airport and to begin providing aviation education and air transportation services to the university and to the surrounding area. The Air Institute and Service was not an academic unit, but, rather a services unit of the university. The Air Institute did not directly employ full time academic faculty but did teach flight classes from the beginning using civil service employees as flight instructors. The founding Director of the Air Institute and Service was C. Gene Seibert and the founding Chief Pilot was Elliott Ketring, both of whom were involved in the ownership of Midwest Aero Services.
The first aviation degree program that was established at SIUC was the Associate of Applied Science Degree in Aviation Technology (including coursework for the Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic Certificate), which was initiated in the Fall of 1965 and its founding Director was E. A. “Tony” DaRosa. This degree was offered under the auspices of the Vocational Technical Institute (VTI) of Southern Illinois University, whose Dean was Dr. Ernest Simon. The program was taught in a brand-new hangar and aviation technology building built at Southern Illinois Airport. The groundbreaking for this new facility included Tony DaRosa, Elliott Ketring, Dr. Ernest Simon (Dean of VTI), Gene Seibert and Robert Zimmer of the Southern Illinois Airport Authority.
The first graduating class for Aviation Technologies was in 1967, as pictured here:
In the early 1970’s, the original A. A. S. degree in Aviation Technology was divided into two degrees, an A. A. S. in Aviation Maintenance Technology and an A. A. S. in Avionics Technology.
In 1973, the Vocational Technical Institute (soon to be renamed the School of Technical Careers) was given permission to establish a B. S. in Technical Careers and, soon thereafter, a Specialization in Aviation Management was established to build upon any technical background in aviation. This included the two A. A. S. Degrees already offered as well as flight coursework and military or civilian work experience or training in aviation.
The specialization in Aviation Management eventually grew to become a separate major, the B. S. in Aviation Management, which was approved to be offered in 1984. Also approved that year was an A. A. S. degree in Aviation Flight, which finally formalized the fact that the university had offered flight coursework since 1960.
In 1989, a special grant received from the Federal Aviation Administration under the Airway Science Program, funded the construction of the addition to the College of Technical Careers Building to house a classroom for Airway Science instruction, a library (the Herbert H. Howell Aviation Management Library) and an office and storeroom.
In 1990, the Illinois Board of Higher Education approved the Aviation Administration Concentration of the Master of Public Administration (or MPA—AA degree). This degree was then a joint offering of the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Technical Careers (today, the College of Applied Sciences and Arts).
In 1993, the College of Technical Careers was reorganized into a departmental structure that included the Department of Aviation Management and Flight and the Department of Aviation Technologies.
In 1996, the Illinois Board of Higher Education approved the B. S. in Aviation Technologies with Specializations in Aircraft Maintenance, Helicopter Maintenance and Aviation Electronics and, at the same time, merged the former Associate of Applied Science degrees into the new B. S. degree.
In 1999, the Minors in Aircraft Product Support (available through the AVT and the AVM degrees) and Airport Management and Planning (available through the AVM degree) were approved. Also in 1999, the Joseph A. Schafer Helicopter Laboratory was dedicated and officially opened on the west side of Southern Illinois Airport. This facility illustrates a key strength of SIUC Aviation: Its unique offerings in helicopter maintenance and close ties to Bell Helicopter-Textron.
The result is that, today, Southern Illinois University Carbondale offers one of the most comprehensive aviation program offerings available in the nation with A.A.S., B.S. and master’s degrees as well as two minors. Nearly 400 students are enrolled in these programs. In support of SIUC Aviation, the university operates 36 flight training and air transportation aircraft and also has available over 25 aircraft and helicopters for maintenance programs. By late 2012, the university is expected to complete construction on the recently-approved $63 million Transportation Education Center, which will include new facilities to support Aviation Management and Flight and Aviation Technologies programs and students.