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September 25, 2009

Purdue dedicates Niswonger Aviation Technology Building

Niswonger Aviation Technology Building dedicated
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Purdue University dedicated the newly expanded Niswonger Aviation Technology Building on Friday (Sept. 25).

The addition of 18,200 square feet of learning space to the former aviation technology building will help centralize the department's operations and provide new lecture halls, classrooms, meeting rooms, a collaborative suite and a new computer laboratory. The building also has been soundproofed to eliminate airplane engine noise from the nearby airport. The total project has cost $7.5 million.

"The opening of the Niswonger Aviation Technology Building makes it possible to better prepare tomorrow's pilots, airline managers, aeronautical technologists and others who attend Purdue to join the aviation industry," said Purdue President France A. Córdova. "I'm grateful to Scott Niswonger and the many other donors who made this building a reality. The expansion and renovation of this facility will enable Purdue to take our aviation technology program to the next level."

Scott Niswonger
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The Niswonger Aviation Technology Building is named after transportation and logistics executive Scott Niswonger of Greeneville, Tenn. Niswonger graduated from Purdue's aviation technology program in 1968. In 2004 he made a $4.6 million gift for construction of the new building and partial renovation of the existing facility. He also assisted in raising another $2 million for the project.

Niswonger is the principal owner of Landair Corp. and chairman emeritus of Forward Air, which he founded in 1981. Landair provides high-service level truckload operations to the air cargo industry and other businesses.

In summer of 2007 the building was renamed in his honor.

"It's a privilege to have a role in maintaining Purdue's pre-eminence of training future generations of aviation professionals," Niswonger said.

Niswongers, Córdova
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The Department of Aviation Technology has a number of specialized laboratories, including the Aeronautical Technology Airframe Laboratory, an advanced composites laboratory, both electrical and electronics laboratories, an advanced materials laboratory, and the Holleman-Niswonger Simulator Center, which is named after Niswonger and Charles Holleman, a professor emeritus of aviation technology. The department also operates a fleet of 28 piston and turbine aircraft used for professional pilot training.

Brent Bowen, head of the aviation technology program, said the building "is a state of the art, technologically advanced learning facility."

"This new building is fabulous," he said. "The student excitement is visible on a daily basis with the facility in high demand. Especially welcomed are the student collaboration areas. Student teams, help labs and other activities are already taking place."

The Aviation Technology Building was built in 1934, with additions in 1941 to include test cells, wind tunnels and research tools. The facility once housed part of the airport operations and administration, including the terminal and hanger in which Amelia Earhart's last airplane was outfitted for her ill-fated flight around the world in 1937. Earhart's plane was paid for in part by gift funds secured through the Purdue Research Foundation.

The first aviation course was offered at Purdue in 1911. In 1955 the Department of Aviation Technology was created, and the following year, a two-year flight education program was formed. In 1964, the general aviation flight technology program was started with aircraft used in the ROTC program. Today, about 620 students are enrolled in the aviation technology program at West Lafayette.

The dedication was part of a weeklong celebration leading up to Purdue's homecoming on Oct. 3.

Writer: Soumitro Sen, 765-496-9711,

Sources: France A. Córdova,

Brent Bowen, 765-494-5782,

Debbie Oldenberg (media contact for Scott Niswonger), 423-783-1236,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Purdue Board of Trustees Chairman Keith J. Krach (from left), President France A. Córdova, College of Technology Dean Dennis Depew, and Nikki and Scott Niswonger on Friday (Sept. 25) take part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony to dedicate the Niswonger Aviation Technology Building. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

Nikki and Scott Niswonger and Purdue President France A. Córdova applaud the unveiling of the nameplate on the front facade of the Niswonger Aviation Technology Building during Friday's (Sept. 25) dedication ceremony. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

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