The History of the Department of Aviation Technology
1930s – 1940s
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.
In the 1940s the Aeronautical Engineering School developed a four 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 four year Bachelor of Science degree granting programs. The creation of the
College of Technology enhanced the concept of the 2+2 curriculum 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.
1970s – 1980s
The 1970s were a time of great change for the Aviation department. The early part of
the decade saw the dissolution of the Purdue Aeronautics Corporation and its sequel,
Purdue Airlines, Inc. This forced the department to develop additional courses and
laboratories. In 1977 a second BS degree option was made available for aviation
maintenance students. Towards the end of the decade the aviation electronics program
was removed as an associate degree program. The majority of the content and
resources relocated as advanced coursework in the Aviation Maintenance BS degree
The 1980s saw the development of the Aviation Administration (AAT) program as
well as the title change of Aviation Maintenance Technology (AMT) to Aeronautical
Engineering Technology (AET), which better reflected the mission of the program.
1990s – 2000s
The 1990s were a time of great success for the Department of Aviation Technology.
In the early part of the decade the department was able to expand its coursework to the
Indianapolis Statewide Technology site. Then, in 1997 the department received initial
academic accreditation of all Aviation Technology undergraduate programs by the
Council on Aviation Accreditation (CAA).
During the early part of the new millennium the department of Aviation Technology
was able to establish industrial partnerships with Resin Services and United
Airlines. In 2002 the department was awarded full accreditation reaffirmation of all
Aviation Technology B.S. degree programs by CAA (Which is now known as the
Aviation Accreditation Board International – AABI). The following year Aviation
Administration (AAT) was renamed to Aviation Management (AM).