Department History

Historical Timeline

1928 First graduate aeronautics courses offered in the Mechanical Engineering Department.

1929 Aeronautics course offerings are expanded to seven undergraduate courses.

1941 The State Board of Regents creates the Department of Aeronautical Engineering.

1946 T.A. Wilson joins the department as a faculty member. He later goes on to become the CEO of Boeing and is the first inductee into ISU Aerospace Engineering Hall of Distinguished Alumni.

1960 The department is renamed the Department of Aerospace Engineering.

1961 Beverly Birchmeier is the first female graduate of the department.

1965 Collins Radio Company donates a smoke tunnel designed by Alexander Lippisch, inventor of the delta-wing, and the ISU AIAA student branch hosts Dr. Lippisch as a guest speaker. The tunnel is still in use for undergraduate teaching.

1971 The department hires its first female faculty member, Dr. Barbara Lunde (PhD in physics who worked in the area of spacecraft systems).

1973 The departments of Aerospace Engineering and Mechanical Engineering are both authorized to grant PhD degrees and attention turned increasingly towards research and development.

1980 The Computational Fluid Dynamics Center at Iowa State is officially recognized as a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) center of excellence.

1989 The NASA Iowa Space Grant Consortium (ISGC) is founded and administered by Iowa State. ISGC includes Iowa State, the University of Iowa, and the University of Northern Iowa as founding members.

1990 The Department of Aerospace Engineering merges with the Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics.

1996 The first department Industrial Advisory Committee (IAC) is formed.

1999 The department moves to Howe Hall, it’s current home. New facilities are constructed: including the buoyancy tank and the ABL wind tunnel.

2005 Prof. Partha Sarkar builds the world’s first Tornado and Downburst Simulator.

2008 United Technologies Aircraft Systems donates the ISU Icing Research Tunnel to the department. The tunnel was installed and refurbished by Prof. Hui Hu starting in 2009.

2013 Retired NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson joins the Aerospace Department faculty.

2014 Retired USAF pilot and flight instructor Robert Martin joins the Aerospace Department faculty.

2017 Retired NASA Flight Director Tomas Gonzalez-Torres joins the Aerospace Department Faculty. Iowa State becomes the only aerospace academic program with both a former NASA astronaut and a former NASA flight director on the faculty.

Our history of educational and research excellence continues to this day. Our department takes pride in a nationally distinguished faculty and a hands-on and design-centric undergraduate program that is one of the largest in the U.S.

1943: During WWII, Curtiss-Wright Aeronautical Engineering Cadettes are shown working on a department project.
1946: Students are shown with the department’s Ercoupe plane, which was maintained and flown by various department individuals and served as a laboratory for students.
1993: Iowa State’s“Bomb” yearbook contained a story about ISU’s Flying Club, which featured many aerospace engineering students.