Press Releases

July 24, 2014
Contact: Kate McAlpine, (734) 763-4386,

Aerospace Engineering at Michigan turns 100

ANN ARBOR—One hundred years ago this fall, Felix Pawlowski taught the first aeronautical engineering class at the University of Michigan, kicking off the nation’s first bachelor’s program in the subject. The university awarded the first aeronautical engineering degrees in 1917.

From September 18th through 20th, the Department of Aerospace Engineering will celebrate a century of teaching and studying flight at the University of Michigan with a series of tours and panel discussions, an award ceremony, and a tailgate.

“As the oldest aerospace engineering program in the nation, we are part of a proud heritage of trailblazers, from the beginnings of powered flight to the advent of control engineering and recently, the increased access to space afforded by miniature satellites,” said Daniel Inman, the Clarence “Kelly” Johnson Professor of Aerospace Engineering and chair of the department at U-M.

To honor the department’s history at the cutting edge of the field, the panels assembled at the event will outline the future of aerospace engineering. The discussion on the aircraft industry includes the Chief Technology Officer of Boeing, John Tracy, while the panel on space travel will bring leaders from NASA, Space X, Blue Origin and Orbital Sciences together. Notables from major engine producers Pratt & Whitney and GE Aviation will examine routes toward green aviation.

Department chairs of other leading aerospace programs – MIT, Stanford, and Duke – will convene to discuss the future of academics and research. From the beginning, aerospace engineering at U-M has focused on providing a high-quality education, producing leaders in the field from astronauts and pilots to aircraft and spacecraft designers and manufacturers.

Faculty research in the department often explores the fundamentals of the field, discovering new principles and techniques that enable new technologies, but U-M aerospace engineering professors also have a track record of collaborating with industry and influencing policy.

“Our faculty have advised the government on the use of airplanes, and later space, since World War I,” said Inman. “We also have a long history of significant alumni starting with Kelly Johnson and Elsie MacGill, the first female aircraft designer, continuing today with high-level industry leaders.”