The civilian aviation training provided by Purdue supported my career in the Navy by enabling me to offer a level of insight and perspective that is not commonly found in Naval Aviation. The Purdue name alone has opened many doors for me professionally, and once inside those doors, the substance of my Purdue education blossomed in an acceptive environment.
James Paulsen
Professional Flight '83
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James Paulsen

Professional Flight '83
Retired for U.S. Navy

The Purdue Legacy

James Paulsen was drawn to Purdue, in part, by the history, legacy and reputation of its aviation program. Paulsen’s impressive aviation career, particularly his nearly four decades as a U.S. Navy officer and pilot, builds on the storied reputation of a Purdue education.
“A lifelong interest in aviation and history naturally led me to Purdue, with its pioneering interest and contribution in the development of aviation,” he says.

Career and a Calling Fulfilled

Paulsen knows college wasn’t preparation for all the challenges of a dynamic career, but he knows the foundation for 30 years in the Navy was laid with assistance from the College of Technology. What followed would fill the pages of a thrilling book or blockbuster movie. He flew FA-18s from aircraft carriers, served as a political advisor to the U.S. State Department, commanded a strike fighter squadron in combat and initiated counter-IED technologies for the Marine Corps. In addition, he led an air wing of eight squadrons of different aircraft into combat and directed human resources responsibilities for half of the Navy’s 53,000 officers.
All told, Paulsen has more than 5,000 flight hours in the cockpit, including over 3,000 hours in the FA-18 Hornet and Super Hornet. He also had 1,000 landings on the decks of nine aircraft carriers. From his years as a U.S. Navy pilot and commander and his days at Purdue, he has discovered that the dynamic nature of aviation technology demands origination and adaptability to maintain its leading edge. “I have found innovation to be a more precise description of the requirements of the world of naval aviation, and creativity is more of an element of that innovation. In my experience, that innovation has been necessary to adapt to the continuous change of the industry.”

He's Already Back

Now retired from the Navy, Paulsen enjoys a second career in aviation, returning to the Purdue region as chief flight instructor for Lafayette Aviation. And he’s reconnecting with his Purdue roots. “I have fond memories of meeting several Purdue grads and fellow naval aviators, including those who have walked on the moon.”