WMU aviation and engineering colleges to partner with FAA

contact: Cheryl Roland
| WMU News

Partnership created to improve safety in aviation

KALAMAZOO—Western Michigan University has been named by the Federal Aviation Administration to be part of a new network of 12 universities charged with enhancing the safety and future of the nation's general aviation sector.

The FAA announced the establishment Sept. 27 of the Center for Excellence Partnership to Enhance General Aviation Safety, Accessibility and Sustainability—known as PEGASAS. The center's goal is to lay the groundwork for the creation of a cost-sharing partnership between academia, industry and government that will focus on general aviation safety-related topics.

"The United States has the largest and most diverse general aviation community in the world, with more than 300,000 aircraft registered to fly through American skies," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in announcing the new center. "This innovative partnership with academia and industry will help us take general aviation safety to the next level." 

Partnership to Enhance General Aviation Safety, Accessibility and Sustainability

PEGASAS will be led by Purdue University, the Ohio State University and the Georgia Institute of Technology. The core team also will include the Florida Institute of Technology and Iowa State and Texas A&M universities. Western Michigan University is an affiliate member along with Arizona State, Florida A&M, Hampton, Kent State, North Carolina A&T State, Oklahoma State, Southern Illinois-Carbondale and Tufts universities as well as the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

PEGASAS industry and organizational partners include, among others: GE Aviation, NetJets Inc., Cessna, Gulfstream, Rockwell Collins, Flight Safety Foundation, NextGen AeroSciences and Rolls-Royce.

WMU's involvement in the consortium will involve both its College of Aviation and its College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. More than a dozen faculty and staff researchers in the aviation college and a smaller number in the engineering college will use the college's fleet of aircraft, aviation facilities and simulators in Battle Creek as well as research and development tools such as wind tunnels and structure labs located on the WMU engineering campus.

"Our aviation and engineering faculty bring to the new center expertise in all of the areas of focus as well as a national reputation in a number of very specific areas," says Dr. Raymond Thompson, associate dean of the College of Aviation. "We are pleased to be able to work in collaboration with the other outstanding member institutions in PEGASAS."

According to Thompson, WMU's contributions to the effort will likely revolve around its reputation and capabilities in such areas as crew and human factors research, flight safety and system safety management.

Over the next decade, the Center for Excellence is expected to forge a union between the public and private sectors to create a world-class consortium that will identify solutions to existing and anticipated issues. The FAA expects the center to perform various types of basic and applied research on general aviation topics through a variety of analyses and development and prototyping activities. The agency will invest a minimum of $500,000 per year in that research for each of the first five years of the effort. PEGASAS research areas will focus on general aviation safety, continued accessibility and sustainability. Research projects will include faculty and both undergraduate and graduate students.

The PEGASAS Center for Excellence will be administratively housed at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., with projects taking place at all member institutions.