Twenty-three years before the Wright Brother’s flight in Kitty Hawk, N.C., a Starkville resident, Charles A. Sullivan, in 1880, was awarded the first U.S. patent on a flying aircraft.
Aviation has been in the blood of many who lived in this area, beginning with Sullivan and followed by Sumter Camp, who received his flight instructions in 1923 in St. Louis under Charles Lindbergh.
Camp built and owned the first airport in Starkville in 1932. He taught students to fly at Mississippi State College as well as many Air Force cadets for services in WWII.
After WWII, the Starkville Municipal Airport was renamed to honor the first local Army Air Force pilot to be killed, Lt. George M. Bryan.
The “big bang” in aviation research began in 1948 when August Raspet, an aero physicist, came to Mississippi State College. His work with sailplanes was augmented by observing buzzards in flight and resulted in the development of fixed-wing aircraft capable of flying at low speeds. This technology greatly improved the safety of crop-dusters who often crashed at low speeds.
Raspet received the first non-agricultural research funds ever at MS State, thus creating the spark that compelled other departments into research. The first aircraft made of composite materials occurred under his watch which allowed Japan’s Honda Motors to build an annex at the Raspet Center. An 8-passenger executive turbine-powered aircraft was built for Honda using composite materials.
Without a doubt, MSU was considered the aviation center for research in Mississippi and possibly the entire southeast U.S. Many companies came forth with their unique needs to solve aviation design problems. Some of these were DuPont Aerospace, Westinghouse Electronics, Florida based Mod-Works, and Bosch Aerospace.
The fruits of this early and on-going research can be seen in the quality of the industries that have located in the Golden Triangle: Aurora, Stark Aerospace, and Eurocopter.
If learning more about early aviation sparks your interest, then be at the Starkville Sportsplex on August 26 at 10 a.m.
A roundtable discussion will be held featuring ten individuals who were either involved in the early research or were closely associated with it. Dave Raspet, son of August Raspet, will be present along with Chester McKee, Terry Camp, Ernest Russell, George Bennett, Mel Swartsberg, Estel Wilson, Stuart Vance, and Tom hardy. Greg Stewart, the Director of Development at Aurora Flight Sciences, will also be a panel member.