The History of the School of Aviation and Transportation Technology

1930s – 1940s

Purdue University Aviation has a rich and storied history. In 1935, Amelia Earhart was invited to join Purdue as a visiting counselor for women students. She loved her role and the University, and she developed what she called her "flying laboratory": a Lockheed Electra twin-engined airliner. Earhart had the seats removed and extra fuel tanks installed in their place. With these changes the plane had a fuel capacity of 1204 gallons, which gave it a range of 4,500 miles.

In the 1940s, Aeronautical Engineering developed a four year non-engineering program in Air Transportation. With options in flight, maintenance, and management, the program utilized the Purdue Airport and aircraft as a laboratory. Included in these resources was Purdue Aeronautics Corporation, which operated the fleet of DC-3 aircraft as well as the Purdue Airport, the first university-owned airport in the country.


By the 1950s, the engineering school determined that the Air Transportation program was not consistent with their future goals. The management portion of the program was absorbed into the then-developing School of Management. The flight and maintenance options were in effect terminated. In order to make use of the available resources, flight and maintenance training programs were established in the Division of Technical Institutes (DTI). This was the beginning of what became known as the Department of Aviation Technology. A two-year program in Aviation Maintenance Technology (AMT) was created in 1954 and followed by Professional Pilot Technology (PPT) in 1956. The emphasis of the AMT program was providing student eligibility for the Civil Aeronautics Administration Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic certification. The PPT program utilized Purdue Aeronautics Corporation's (PAC) DC-3 aircraft and required the students to have a commercial pilot certificate prior to entering the program. Initially, both programs heavily utilized PAC equipment and facilities for laboratories. Although located on the West Lafayette campus, the program was not considered a part of the University. Academic subjects were taught as special courses, and aviation students paid extra fees.

Specialized course and laboratory development and integration into the University mainstream were major goals of the late 1950s.


By 1960, all academic subjects were being taught within the regular University course structure. Beginning in 1961, aviation students paid only the standard tuition and fees. A third program, Aviation Electronics Technology (AET), was initiated in the fall of 1961. Students graduating in the spring of 1962 were the first to receive associate degrees. Three significant events occurred in 1964: the development of the College of Technology, the development of an ab-initio flight training program, and the conversion of the existing flight option into a B.S. degree program.

The College of Technology was formed as an organizational structure for the various two-year associate degree programs including aviation technology. Also included in the school were the departments of Industrial Education and Industrial Supervision, both four year Bachelor of Science degree-granting programs. The creation of the College of Technology enhanced the concept of the 2+2 curriculum at a time when an increasing number of students were seeking a B.S. degree. Also of major significance was the designation of the aviation unit as a department of the school.

1970s – 1980s

The 1970s were a time of great change for Aviation Technology. The early part of the decade saw the dissolution of the Purdue Aeronautics Corporation and its sequel, Purdue Airlines, Inc. This forced the department to develop additional courses and laboratories. In 1977, a second B.S. degree option was made available for aviation maintenance students. Towards the end of the decade, the associate aviation electronics degree program was discontinued. The majority of the content and resources were relocated as advanced coursework in the Aviation Maintenance B.S. degree option.

The 1980s saw the development of the Aviation Administration (AAT) program as well as the title change of Aviation Maintenance Technology (AMT) to Aeronautical Engineering Technology (AET), which better reflected the mission of the program.

1990s – 2000s

The 1990s were a time of great success for the Department of Aviation Technology. In the early part of the decade, the department was able to expand its coursework to the Indianapolis Statewide Technology site. Then, in 1997, the department received initial academic accreditation of all Aviation Technology undergraduate programs by the Council on Aviation Accreditation (CAA).

During the early part of the new millennium, Aviation Technology was able to establish industrial partnerships with Resin Services and United Airlines. In 2002 the department was awarded full accreditation reaffirmation of all Aviation Technology B.S. degree programs by CAA (which is now known as the Aviation Accreditation Board International, or AABI). The following year, Aviation Administration (AAT) was renamed to Aviation Management (AM).


Aviation Technology began offering new undergraduate majors in unmanned aerial systems, aerospace financial analysis, airline management and operations, and airport management and operations, bringing the total number of undergraduate programs to seven. The department also became part of the new Purdue Research Park Aerospace district, expanding its ability to create research and other industry partnerships. As part of the deal, Purdue acquired the local fixed-base operator, now called Purdue Aviation LLC.

On October 9, 2015, Purdue's Board of Trustees approved the renaming of the Department of Aviation Technology to the School of Aviation and Transportation Technology.