Exhibit explores Oktibbeha aviation heritage

August 7, 2010 8:57:00 PM

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An aviation exhibit is on display through August in the Greater Starkville Development Partnership lobby at 200 E. Main St., in Starkville. Photographs and information depict examples of aircraft from the World War II period. The exhibit may be viewed between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. 

 

In addition, a roundtable discussion will be held at the Starkville Sportsplex Thursday, Aug. 26, at 10 a.m. Ten individuals who were involved or closely associated with early research will participate. They include Dave Raspet, son of August Raspet, Chester McKee, Terry Camp, Ernest Russell, George Bennett, Mel Swartsberg, Estel Wilson, Stuart Vance and Tom Hardy. Greg Stewart, director of development for Aurora Flight Services, will also be a panel member. 

 

 

 

Glimpse at history 

 

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 World War II. 

 

After World War II, 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 the 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 Mississippi State, thus creating the spark that compelled other departments into research. The first aircraft made of composite materials occurred under his watch and allowed Japan''s Honda Motors to build an annex at the Raspet Center. An eight-passenger executive turbine-powered aircraft was built for Honda using composite materials. 

 

Without a doubt, Mississippi State University 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 ongoing research can be seen in the quality of the industries that have located in the Golden Triangle, including Aurora, Stark Aerospace and Eurocopter. 

 

This release contains information provided by Bill Poe of Starkville.