Indiana State University Newsroom

Students soaring in new ISU Flight Academy

September 16, 2013

While attending the Terre Haute Air Show when he was 14, J. J. Dover grabbed the cockpit steering wheel while in mid-flight and discovered his life's calling.

The Indiana State University student is now departing a Terre Haute runway that's preparing him and other aspiring pilots for their careers in aviation.

Indiana State this fall opened the ISU Flight Academy at Terre Haute International Airport. The academy features a newly renovated facility and a fleet of aircraft that the university purchased as part of the new flight school. The aircraft feature navigational equipment and other technology that students will encounter as pilots working in the aviation industry, said Dover, a senior professional aviation flight technology major from Cloverdale.

"Since it's a brand new academy, the foundation is set, and the only way that they can go is up," Dover said. "The opportunities are there. There's just going to be more and more opportunities there as this gets bigger and bigger."

Indiana State will continue to teach pilots in the classroom on campus, before they practice on the fleet of aircraft at the Flight Academy. Terre Haute International Airport features an air traffic control tower, which will give the pilots additional training in communicating with controllers as they fly.

"The driving factor is student success, and giving our students opportunities that we really haven't had in the past to help best prepare them to go out there and compete for jobs in aviation," said Harry Minniear, chair of the aviation department at Indiana State's College of Technology. "It's about what we can do to make sure that students are getting the best training and education that ISU can possibly give them. Having the flight school gives us that kind of leverage."

The academy is located in the former FedEx building at Terre Haute International, which was renovated during the summer to make way for its new purpose. The fleet of planes includes several Diamond DA40s that ISU bought from the U.S. Air Force Academy and which are commonly used to train pilots. The aircraft features the same type of instrumentation that the airlines use, said Kevin Donnar, chief flight instructor at the academy.

"I had a dean tell me once years ago that if you don't keep up with technology and you keep training in the same aircraft and the same type of equipment, then you become history teachers," Donnar added. "If you don't change with technology, then things become stagnant all around."

Indiana State pilots will now receive a standardized syllabus and training at the academy, said Megan Henderson, assistant chief flight instructor at the flight school.

"They'll be more qualified for their jobs in the future," she added. "That's why students will want to go to Indiana State University."

Pilots are not the only Indiana State students who are benefiting from the new academy. Students majoring in aviation management will help run the academy's daily operations. Several students will have internships, while others will work as crew members, dispatching planes and helping with the logistics of operating the school.

"By having our own flight academy, it gave us the opportunity to integrate the management students into the school's daily operations," Minniear said. "A lot of these management students will go on to manage a facility fairly similar to what our academy is like."

University officials hope that the new flight school will provide an opportunity to train more pilots at Indiana State in the coming years, as the word gets out about the increased opportunities that are available.

"The new academy will provide unique opportunities for students who want to pursue careers in aviation," said Bob English, interim dean of the College of Technology. "Our students will be able to develop and strengthen the skill sets that will make them great aviation professionals."

Photo: Indiana State University senior J. J. Dover, a professional aviation flight technology major from Cloverdale, sits in one of the university's airplanes at the ISU Flight Academy. The academy opened this fall to train student pilots. In addition, some aviation management majors will work on the school's daily operations.

Photo: The hangar of the new ISU Flight Academy, which features aircraft that includes navigational equipment and other features that students will use as professional pilots. The academy is located at the former FedEx facility at Terre Haute International Airport.

Photo: Kevin Donnar, chief flight instructor at the ISU Flight Academy, Indiana State University student J. J. Dover and Megan Henderson, assistant chief flight instructor at the academy.

Contact: Harry Minniear, chair, aviation technology department, College of Technology, Indiana State University, 812-237-2641 or

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or