Aeronautical Engineering courses were offered by Iowa State as early as 1929, placed in the Mechanical Engineering department as optional courses for Graduate students. In 1933, undergraduate courses were available, dealing with the design of Aeronautical structures. Professor Bevan was instrumental in the growth of the Aerospace Department during it’s early development.

The 1940s

The Cardinal and Gold Wind Tunnel

In May of 1941, a wind tunnel, designed by Beven, was completed for the Iowa State department of Aeronautics. At a cost of $5000, it has undergone some modifications since it’s construction, but still remains in use today.

On November 26, 1941, The State board of Education approved the Aerospace department at Iowa State, to be administrated by the Mechanical Engineering Department. In 1942 Aerospace became its own department, spending much of its time in Pilot instruction. In 1943, Aerospace was still defined as its own department, with Wylbur C. Nelson as department head. In the same year, Aerospace graduated its first class of 13 students, its most prominent being Thorton A. Wilson.

ISU Aerospace Engineering during World War II

America was unprepared for World War Two, but the rapid mobilization of men and women and equipment spurred rapid growth in research development on all fronts. Nowhere was this more evident than in the aircraft industry. World War Two was won and lost by air power. Suddenly, Aeronautical Engineering became a prime importance to the United States war effort. Iowa State University was ready. A brand new curriculum in Aero education approved by the state Board of Education less than two weeks earlier was in place.

The 1960s and 1970s

In the early 1960s, the official name of the Aeronautics Department was changed to Aerospace, and the enrollment increased to around 540. At the end of the 60s, the Aerospace department had become large enough to require more classroom and staff space. The Town Engineering Building was designed and approved in 1969, and was completed in 1971.

In the early 70s, student enrollment had reached a plateau, and attention turned to research and development. Iowa State Aerospace spent much of the time doing research for NASA, the NSF, as well as other grant work. Around this time, the Aerospace Department was given the ability to grant MS, ME, and PhD degrees in the field. Robert Bradske was head of the Department during this period.

In the late 1970s, NASA assisted ISU with a Computational Fluid Dynamics Center headed by Dale Anderson, one of 7 such centers built in the country. Anderson was assisted by John Tannehill , Richard Pletcher, Jerald Vogel , and Richard Hindman. The mission of the Center is to coordinate research and interdepartmental course offerings in the area of numerical simulation of fluid flow and related physical phenomenon.

The CFD Center was officially recognized as a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) center of excellence in 1980. Since 1986, CFD Center researchers have received over $6,000,000 in research funding from sources that include: the National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA: Ames, Langley and Lewis), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), Sandia National Labs, the Boeing Company, the General Electric Corporation, Calspan, General Motors – Allison, the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the Army Research Office (ARO), the Iowa Energy Center and the United Technologies Corporation.

This material is from the video On the Leading Edge , which is a videotape produced by Iowa State University, showing a brief history of the Aerospace Engineering Department.