SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — New heights and a new home are coming for Middle Tennessee State University’s aerospace campus.
“Our soon-to-be new aviation campus in the beautiful city of Shelbyville promises to expand our capabilities even further,” said MTSU President Sidney McPhee.
After years of planning, Shelbyville’s Municipal Airport will officially house the university’s growing aerospace program.
“It’s massive actually,” said Donald McDonald. “Unforeseen (and) never thought of.”
A move like this is something McDonald never imagined would happen.
“We were a very small outfit back then,” he said. “We had three or four instructors and two airplanes.”
Before the aerospace program existed, the university only had an aviation program that McDonald was a graduate of in 1963.
“We had two trainers,” he said. “Two old, worn out trainers back in those days, and now they have 44 training airplanes.”
After sweeping hangers at the Murfreesboro Airport, Bernard Doubler soon found himself at MTSU.
“I was just coming through the program at just the right time, and accidentally wound up being the first aerospace graduate,” he said.
Both men have had the privilege of watching this program continue to soar over the last several decades.
“I started flying in Piper Cubs and Cessna 150s, and now their graduates are going to be flying 787s and 797s, and maybe even some of them super sonic transport,” said Doubler.
The city of Shelbyville voted to approve the relocation in April of this year.
“I am absolutely excited to finally be here,” said Dr. Chaminda Prelis.
Prelis, who is the chair of the Department of Aerospace, said the move from the Murfreesboro Airport will allow room for more growth, as well as the chance to make this program the best in the country.
“This is just the very first chapter of our work in Shelbyville,” he said.
With a 40-year lease set, McDonald is one of many excited for what’s to come.
“Who would have ever dreamed of that back in 1957 when I was flying?” he said.
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Over $60 million in funding, with a majority of that coming from the state, was able to help make this move possible.
The university will have temporary facilities up by the end of the spring semester in 2024, with up to 20 aircraft moved for flight training.
They plan to break ground in the summer or fall of 2024, which plans to be fully moved and running in Shelbyville by the summer or fall of 2026.