Those with a proclivity for cynicism might judge this headline an oxymoron equal to military intelligence. But before you snigger and stop reading, consider this: under its Center of Excellence banner, the FAA has selected a team of universities with renowned aviation programs to conduct general aviation research and test things that will enhance its safety, accessibility, and sustainability into the future.
No idle, unpaid for political promise, the FAA will invest at least $500,000 a year for the first half of the COE’s 10-year run. And this is not the only—or inaugural—COE. The FAA established the first GA Center of Excellence in 2001. During its decade run its participating universities researched and tested pilot training, human factors, ADS-B, remote airport lighting, and other facets of GA. And the FAA has established other COEs dedicated to other aspects of aerospace endeavors.
Purdue, Ohio State, and the Georgia Institute of Technology lead PEGASAS, the Partnership to Enhance General Aviation Safety, Accessibility, and Sustainability. (Oh, how academics and bureaucrats do love their acronyms.) The Florida Institute of Technology, Iowa State, and Texas A&M round out the core team, and there are 10 affiliate universities.
Supporting the universities are more than two dozen aerospace businesses and organizations. They cover the spectrum of GA airframe, avionics, and powerplant OEMs and its operational representatives, from the National Intercollegiate Flying Association to the National Business Aviation Association.
Perhaps more important than the innovations that will spring from the research are the people who will do the work, graduate and undergraduate students of aviation, the next generation that still cares enough about flight to make it their life’s work. They are the ones who will ensure general aviation’s future not just because of their dedicated research, but because they got involved. –Scott