Purdue 980-acre aerospace tech park ready for flight

April 21, 2015  

Aerospace aerial

The 980-acre Purdue Research Park Aerospace District was announced Tuesday (April 21) by Purdue President Mitch Daniels as one of the most comprehensive and important enterprises in aviation technology. The district will provide educational, research and commerce opportunities for Indiana residents and Purdue University students. (Purdue Research Park photo)
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Purchase of Lafayette Aviation and tech park certification set stage for major expansion

INDIANAPOLIS and WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University President Mitch Daniels on Tuesday (April 21) announced plans to create a 980-acre Purdue Research Park Aerospace District in West Lafayette housing public and private aerospace research facilities that will provide jobs for Indiana residents and learning opportunities for Purdue students.

The project includes the purchase of Lafayette Aviation by Purdue aviation technology alumnus Scott Niswonger and Purdue Research Foundation.

"Purdue University has long been known as the Cradle of Astronauts, and our aviation and aeronautics programs are among the best in the world," Daniels said. "The Purdue Research Park Aerospace District will be one of the most comprehensive and important enterprises we have undertaken. The end result will be a world-class park of additional educational, research and commerce opportunities for Indiana residents and Purdue students."

Plans for the 980-acre aerospace district, which encompasses the Purdue University Airport, Lafayette Aviation and the Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories, include opportunities for aerospace companies that wish to collaborate with Purdue to build research and development facilities. The site has already been named an Indiana Certified Technology Park by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

Aerospace students

Students in the Department of Aviation Technology prepare to work on a plane at the Purdue University airport in West Lafayette, Ind. The purchase of Lafayette Aviation will expand their educational opportunities. (Purdue University photo) 
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"The Certified Technology Park program was created to support projects such as this where we support a long-term investment in high-tech, high-paying jobs for Indiana residents," said Victor Smith, Indiana Secretary of Commerce. "This tech park is uniquely situated next to a major research institution, which will provide another reason for our recent college graduates to stay in Indiana."

The project received support from other Indiana leaders.

"Purdue Research Foundation has a proven track record of success with its three other certified technology parks, and designating this newest one as an Indiana Certified Technology Park will enable our community to grow even further in educational and job prospects for our residents," said Indiana Rep. Randy Truitt.

"Our ongoing collaborations with Purdue and other greater Lafayette area leaders help make our community strong. The new aerospace district epitomizes the great steps forward that are taking place in and around Tippecanoe County," said Indiana Rep. Sheila Klinker.

"I can't emphasize enough what a great partner Purdue is for the City of West Lafayette, Greater Lafayette and the state of Indiana," said John Dennis, mayor of West Lafayette. "We meet with Purdue leaders on a regular basis and have jointly recruited companies to this area with great success and to the overall improvement of the quality of life for residents in our area. The aerospace district closely aligns with what we are doing with the State Street Project to create new 'gateways' into West Lafayette and Purdue University."

The Purdue Research Park Aerospace District is owned by the Purdue Research Foundation and will be operated similarly to the foundation's four Purdue Research Park sites around the state where more than 260 research, education and high-tech companies currently employ more than 4,500 people. Parks are located in West Lafayette, Indianapolis, Merrillville and New Albany.

"This district will be a game-changer for our students and Purdue's outreach efforts to partnering corporations. We are looking for research collaborators to complement the commercial and industrial aerospace work that will be done in the district and who have an interest in licensing some of the outstanding aerospace-related intellectual property coming out of the university," said Dan Hasler, president of Purdue Research Foundation. "Purdue researchers have patented technologies to improve engines, sensors, propulsion systems, blade designs, composite materials - it's a deep bench of innovations to advance aerospace design and development."

Aerospace planes

Purdue’s Department of Aviation Technology graduates one of the largest classes for aviation professionals in the country. Purdue has 40 planes in its fleet with anticipated growth in the coming year. Many of these planes are used by students participating in flight training. (Purdue University photo) 
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For example, Purdue Research Park will house a $50 million Indiana Manufacturing Institute to support research in advanced composite materials.

Purdue's educational programs are ranked among the nation’s best. The College of Engineering's School of Aeronautics and Astronautics undergraduate program is ranked No. 4 and its graduate program No. 6 by U.S. News & World Report.

"The educational and research opportunities that this endeavor will create for all of our students, staff and faculty are incalculable," said Leah Jamieson, the John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering and Ransburg Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. "It will result in even greater prospects for our graduates, will help us recruit and retain even more top faculty and students to Purdue, and will grow our contributions to the economic development of the state."

Gary Bertoline, College of Technology dean, agreed.

"Without question, Purdue has a rich history supported by strong research in aerospace technology and has a large pool of talented alumni, faculty, staff and students," he said. "The new aerospace district will lay the foundation for the continued success of all of Purdue's technology, aviation and aerospace programs."

Purdue's history in the aerospace field stretches back to the 1908 when it graduated its first pilot, J. Clifford Turpin, who was taught by aviation pioneer Orville Wright. Three years later, Turpin broke a world record when he flew to an altitude of 9,400 feet. Other Purdue aerospace firsts include:

* 1921 - Purdue offers aeronautical engineering courses.

* 1930 - Purdue offers flight training for pilots.

* 1934 - Purdue Research Foundation purchases land for an airport at Purdue University.

* 1935 - Purdue creates a Careers for Women program led by Amelia Earhart.

* 1956 - Iven Kincheloe (BSAE '49) flies Mach 2 to an altitude of 126,000 feet.

* 1969 and 1972 - Purdue alumni become the first (Neil Armstrong, BSAE '55) and last (Eugene Cernan BSEE '56) astronauts to step on the moon. They are among the 23 astronauts who graduated from Purdue.

"Purdue is one of the few universities across the nation that has an airport attached to it and probably the only one with extensive land surrounding it that can be developed to advance aviation and aerospace commercialization and educational opportunities," said Daniels, who also serves as chairman of the Purdue Research Foundation. "This district, along with the purchase of Lafayette Aviation, will provide unprecedented opportunities for Purdue, its students and the surrounding community. We are delighted to be joining with Scott Niswonger and Purdue Research Foundation as partners in this acquisition."

Lafayette Aviation will be renamed Purdue Aviation.

"We see this is a wonderful way to accelerate the growth of the company and provide even greater opportunities for our employees," said Jeff Pittard, president of Lafayette Aviation/Purdue Aviation.

The purchase expands the economic growth for the enterprise.

"We also will be able to grow in the business areas of fuel sales, aircraft maintenance and flight training," said John Wensveen, head of the Purdue Department of Aviation Technology. "As part of this initiative, we plan to provide certificate programs to industry in partnership with the business project."

Earlier this month, the Department of Aviation Technology announced a partnership with Republic Airways to launch a program that matches Purdue students with Republic's career track. Republic is the world's largest operator of Embraer aircraft.

"Republic is an international leader, and the agreement with them helped launch our Industry-Purdue Opportunity Pipeline," Wensveen said. "Our goal with this initiative is to help address the changing needs of our industry partners and to generate career opportunities for our students."

About Purdue Research Foundation

The Purdue Research Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation created to advance the mission of Purdue University. Established in 1930, the foundation accepts gifts; administers trusts; funds scholarships and grants; acquires property; protects Purdue's intellectual property; and promotes entrepreneurial activities on behalf of Purdue. The foundation manages the Purdue Foundry, Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization, Purdue Research Park and Purdue Technology Centers. The foundation received the 2014 Incubator Network of the Year from the National Business Incubation Association for its work in entrepreneurship. For more information about funding and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at foundry@prf.org.

About Purdue University

A top public research institution, Purdue University strives to offer higher education at its highest proven value. Committed to affordability, the university has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels. Committed to student success, Purdue is changing the way classes are taught with greater focus on faculty-student interaction and creative use of technology. Committed to world-changing research, Purdue has smoothed the pathways for faculty and student innovators who seek to make a global impact. Founded in 1869 in West Lafayette, Indiana, the university proudly serves its state as well as the nation and the world. More than 39,000 students are enrolled, representing all 50 states and 130 countries. 

Writer: Cynthia Sequin, 765-588-3340, casequin@prf.org 

Sources: Mitch Daniels, president@purdue.edu

Vic Smith, 317-234-2294, kprentice@iedc.in.gov

Dan Hasler, 765-588-3826, djhasler@prf.org

John Dennis, mayor@wl.in.gov

Leah Jamieson, 765-494-5346, lhj@purdue.edu

Gary Bertoline, 765-496-6071, bertoline@purdue.edu 

John Wensveen, jwensvee@purdue.edu  

Jeff Pittard, 765-743-9692

Note to Journalists: Purdue University President Mitch Daniels will be available to speak with media from 10:30-11:30 a.m. Please contact Brian Zink at 765-494-2080, bzink@purdue.edu, to arrange an interview. B-roll can be viewed here or downloaded through Dropbox here

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