By Debbie Hersman
Day four in Florida was anchored by a visit to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Founded in 1925, 22 years after the historic flight of the Wright brothers, Embry-Riddle began with a simple plan to train airplane pilots in a thorough, efficient manner and to cash in on a booming post-World War I interest in flying. More than 80 years later, Embry-Riddle is home to as many as 32,000 undergraduate and graduate students from over 125 nations. Today, I had the opportunity to see firsthand how the university teaches the science, practice, and business of aviation, aerospace, and engineering.
Throughout my visit at the university I met with committed professors and enthusiastic students, like the officers representing the Embry-Riddle chapter of the International Society of Air Safety Investigators (pictured above). While on campus I heard about their accident investigation courses, their research and most of all, their safety culture. They shared with me their record of 456,000 hours of flight time, mostly training flights, with just one major event – a bird strike which was bad news for the 30+ lb. buzzard, but was good news because the aircraft was landed safely. I toured their simulators including a UAS lab and spoke to the students and faculty about the NTSB and our work.
I am proud that NTSB counts quite a few Embry-Riddle graduates among its staff, including Dr. Katherine Wilson. Dr. Wilson chose Embry-Riddle because of its reputation and was at home with students and professors who share a passion for flight. Dr. Wilson is a woman of courage and character and noted that during her undergraduate career she set her sights on working at the NTSB and single-mindedly pursued that goal. As Katherine said, “I wanted to make a difference in aviation safety; I can’t imagine doing any other work than what we do at the NTSB.” That commitment to comprehensive accident investigations and sound, scientifically-supported recommendations is making a difference in aviation safety, one that will prevent tragedies from reoccurring. It’s a commitment that is shared by a number of women at the NTSB who graduated from Embry-Riddle: Tealeye Cornejo, Jill Demko, Beverly Drake, Kristi Dunks, Debra Eckrote, Catherine Gagne, Erin Gormley, Samantha Link, Cindy Keegan, Zoe Keliher, Betty Koschig, Heidi Moats, Jennifer Rodi, Sandy Rowlett, and Leah Yeager.