USU’s flight through history

By Arrin Brunson
The Herald Journal
August 25, 2002

Utah State University has written a chapter or two about aviation and space history, in times of war as well as peace, President Kermit L. Hall said Saturday.

In the mid-1930s USU students were trained to maintain aircraft, in one of the earliest programs of its kind in the United States, he said.

“It quickly gained national prestige and became the largest training program for airplane mechanics in the West,” Hall told the audience at the Wright Flyer ceremony gathered at the Logan-Cache Airport.

During World War II, the Army’s aviation maintenance and flight training came to Utah State. In 1940, USU trained more than 4,000 mechanics for the Army Air Corps, he said. The U.S. Air Force would not be born until after the war in 1947.

The Army and Navy expanded the local airport in 1941, Hall said. It became a major pilot training center during the war. Back then, he said, Utah State pilots often used a private landing strip operated by Dean Reese, a former university professor.

“It was located on the east side of campus and was a great place for the pilots to park on their way to class,” Hall said. “How would you like to be a university president and handle that parking problem?”

With the launch of the Space Age in the late 1950s, Utah State began to conduct atmospheric research. That evolved into the Space Dynamics Laboratory, Hall said.

“Under the USU Research Foundation, SDL has become a world leader in developing state-of-the-art sensors, instrument technology and calibration, and spacecraft systems,” Hall said. “It is especially exciting to see how our students have learned and excelled in these fields.”

USU students have sent more experiments into space than any other university, Hall said, and USU aerospace engineering students have won two consecutive national design awards, including one for the Wright replica.