Air show pilots 'entertain MTSU students, faculty, staff during campus visit

Jun 10, 2023 at 01:40 pm by WGNS News

U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Pilots and mechanics participating in this weekend’s Great Tennessee Air Show in Smyrna, Tennessee, “entertained” Middle Tennessee State University students, faculty, and staff, local scouts and Civil Air Patrol groups from Smyrna and Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on the MTSU campus Friday, June 9.


Blue Angels members including U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Julius Bratton of Woodlawn, Tennessee, and a trio from the Navy’s F-35C Demo Team spent an hour in a College of Education classroom sharing their stories with pilots and future pilots about the teamwork it takes to fly a Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet 1,400 mph or work on the $100 million planes.

The Great Tennessee Air Show  (Saturday and Sunday, June 10-11), at the Smyrna Airport included dozens of aerial acts on Saturday that were performed in front of thousands of spectators from around the region. MTSU and its Aerospace Department, one of the premier aviation programs in the nation, is an overall event sponsor and sponsor of the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor, and set up an Aerospace booth at the show and a static aircraft display at the show.

The Blue Angels led off Friday’s visit to MTSU, showcasing their Commit promotion video and F-35C Demo Team pilots, Lt. Dan “Skap” Barringer of Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Capt. Matt “Blower” Jackson of Rising Sun, Maryland, presented a humor-packed PowerPoint. They were joined by Master Chief Rich Brickey, a mechanic.

Bratton said he was “very close” to going to MTSU because of their aerospace program. “If I had not been accepted early into the Naval Academy,” the 2007 graduate of Northwest High School in Clarksville, Tennessee, said he would have been a Blue Raider. His father, retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Leamon Bratton, of Woodlawn in Montgomery County, was a 1980 MTSU graduate and became an angus cattle farmer.

Julius Bratton told the future pilots “to dare to be different. And for those in the Civil Air Patrol, you are already daring to be different.” He added that humility is something he learned along the way. He was joined by Jeremy Bloom, the team’s crew chief.

Photographed with the flying aces different times at the end of  their visit, Carter Biankowski, an MTSU junior professional pilot major from Smyrna, said “it’s cool to hear their presentation.” He added that he plans “to work for any major airline” after graduating.

Cody Jones, 12, of Smyrna, one of those in the Smyrna Civil Air Patrol, said he was “very impressed with meeting the F-35 team because I want to become a professional pilot and a fighter pilot, and I know it’s going to take a lot of dedication and hard work.”

Later Friday afternoon, MTSU hosted Civil Air Patrol cadets and adult leaders from Murfreesboro and Smyrna to meet with the pilots at the Smyrna airport.

As the presentation closed, MTSU aerospace student Brianna McDonald, a professional pilot major and one of three young women who will compete in the annual Air Race Classic this month, and College of Basic and Applied Sciences Dean Greg Van Patten presented the guests special MTSU Aerospace ball caps. The Blue Angels provided commemorative photo and brochure.

CAP, the volunteer civilian auxiliary of the Air Force, has partnered with MTSU’s College of Basic and Applied Sciences since 2014 to provide aerospace education opportunities to its high school-aged cadets. Aside from a COVID-19 hiatus, MTSU has also hosted CAP’s National Cadet Engineering Technology Academy every year since 2017.

MTSU and CAP personnel were afforded a sneak peek of the Raptor team’s performance Friday afternoon and all were invited onto the tarmac afterward to see the F-22s up close.


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