Middle Tennessee State University celebrated its return Monday to EAA AirVenture, the world’s largest aviation celebration, by renewing a third time its partnership with Civil Air Patrol, the volunteer civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force.
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee and Maj. Gen. Mark Smith, CAP’s national commander and chief executive officer, signed the three-year extension just hours after the Experimental Aircraft Association’s signature annual event roared back after a one-year COVID-19 hiatus.
The 69th AirVenture, expected to draw more than 600,000 visitors over its seven-day run, also attracts premier aerospace organizations from industry, education and public service. Its tower controls the movement of about 10,000 aircraft, making it the world’s busiest for the week.
“It’s wonderful that MTSU and CAP are here to celebrate the return of EAA AirVenture and the renewal of our partnership,” McPhee said. “Doing this at this international event underscores the importance of our work in aerospace, both as individual organizations and as partners.”
The MTSU College of Basic and Applied Sciences and its Aerospace Department launched the partnership in 2014, with the priority goal to provide cadets ages 12 to 18 in CAP’s Tennessee Wing opportunities to interact with faculty and explore the Murfreesboro campus.
It was renewed again in 2017 and was set to be extended again in 2020. However, pandemic precautions by both MTSU and CAP pushed it back a year.
Smith, whose tenure as CAP’s 24th national commander concludes Aug. 26, said he was honored to extend the MTSU partnership before his term expires.
“MTSU has been a valued friend, sponsor and partner in so many of Civil Air Patrol’s activities and priorities, not only in Tennessee Wing but also on a national level,” said Smith, who in 2019 became the first CAP national commander to visit the MTSU campus.
MTSU hosted the Tennessee Wing Cadet Encampment in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and welcomed the 2019 encampment’s leadership cadre to campus. The university lured the CAP Cadet Engineering Technology Academy, a national enrichment effort, from Auburn University in 2017, 2018 and 2019. And MTSU has sponsored CAP’s national conference since 2016.
Smith presented McPhee with a plaque recognizing the university as the Tennessee Wing’s top aerospace education partner in 2020. COVID-19 precautions prevented CAP from presenting the honor in person last year. Also, recently:
• Daniel Nofziger, an MTSU Aerospace flight instructor, was honored earlier this year by CAP’s Murfreesboro Composite Squadron as its Aerospace Education Officer of the Year. Nofziger, who served more than 20 years in the Coast Guard, is a CAP captain.
• TSU alumnus and CAP Col. Barry Melton of Cleveland, Tennessee, former commander of the auxiliary’s Southeast Region, was named this month among the university’s class of distinguished alumni for 2021-22.
“This array of mutual honors demonstrates our strong ties and connections,” Smith said.
MTSU’s close ties with CAP stretch back to July 1948, the year CAP’s Middle Tennessee State College Squadron was organized (MTSU’s Aerospace Department was six years old at the time). Based at the old College Airport, the squadron was comprised of pilots trained on campus and was recognized for its search-and-rescue work. It operated on campus until 1953.
CAP, founded days before the start of World War II in 1941, has more than 57,000 volunteer members. It was chartered by Congress to support the Air Force and is best known for its aerial search and rescue missions, cadet program and commitment to aerospace education.
MTSU will conduct numerous corporate and alumni outreach efforts at EAA this week. The university is inviting alumni to visit its booth behind the EAA Control Tower (No. 442) at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday for a meet-and-greet event before an air show demonstration that evening.