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NDPI students attend air show

Matt Bramanti | Monday, April 19, 2004

After months in the classroom, student aviators from the Notre Dame Pilot Initiative were treated to an air show all their own Thursday. Held on the tarmac at the South Bend Regional Airport, the event brought 11 aircraft and their pilots to the field. The Initiative is the parent organization that hosts a course entitled “Introduction to Principles of Flight,” numbered AS398. The three-credit course is open to all students and prepares them – many of whom are pursuing a private pilot’s license – to enter primary flight training.The concept behind the flight course has a 30-year history at the University, but due to liability concerns, had been on hiatus for many years. The course was resurrected in fall 2003, and has taught 90 young aviators in two semesters. While the course is taught in a classroom, a great deal of the real learning happens at the airport, said instructor and licensed pilot Jeff Newcamp, a senior aerospace engineering major.”It was a unique opportunity for students to gain exposure to general aviation aircraft,” Newcamp said. “The air show is the first opportunity for the students to sit in the cockpit.”Clad in yellow T-shirts bearing the slogan “Fly Like a Champion Today,” the 50 students spent Thursday’s class time chatting with pilots and looking at airplanes. While the course’s content focuses on the theory and knowledge underlying powered flight, the annual air show provides some hands-on education on actual aircraft. While safely on the ground, students sat in cockpits and gained familiarity with aircraft controls and instrumentation.Instructor Joe Friel, a senior electrical engineering major, said the show provides experiences that cannot be replicated in the classroom.”It gives the students time to look at the flight instruments and understand what it is like to be [the] pilot in command,” Friel said.Support for the air show – as well as the number of aircraft on display – has grown since the inception of the course last fall. Special guests included WNDU pilot Rich Voigt and his Bell Ranger helicopter – known to Michiana residents as “NewsChopper 16.” In addition, Family Video provided a twin-engine Cessna Citation business jet. Bob Dunn, a professional specialist in the College of Engineering, had his powered parachute on display, and members of the Wings Flying Club brought two single-engine Cessna training aircraft. Rounding out the list of aircraft were a Piper Saratoga, Piper Archer, Mooney Mite, F35 Bonanza and a Bell 222 medical airlift helicopter.Sophomore Rob Schrimpf said the show complemented the course’s formal work and gave many students an intimate look at general aviation.”I’m not sure students in the class have been close to light airplanes before,” Schrimpf said. “The air show was the best class of the semester.”By May, the course’s students will be qualified to take the FAA written exam, the first step in becoming a private pilot. Newcamp said Notre Dame is no stranger to aeronautical training. “These students are continuing a rich tradition of aviation at Notre Dame,” Newcamp said. “[It] stems back to the early days of [Father] Albert Zahm and his glider experiments atop LaFortune. “