Press Release  


New Rotorcraft Engineering Program at U.S. Naval Academy

Posted on: January 16, 2014 08:00 EST

Press Release #: #001-14

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Naval Academy aerospace engineering majors now have the opportunity  to specialize in rotorcraft engineering in the only formal undergraduate-level rotary-wing engineering program in the United States.

     The new program is the largest expansion of the academy’s aerospace curriculum since the astronautics track was added in 1985, and is made possible through a Memorandum of Agreement between the Naval Academy and the Office of Naval Research, which extends ONR support for the Naval Academy’s rotorcraft program and provided the basis for its expansion into a formal academic track. The program will include a rotorcraft performance course, a rotorcraft stability and control course and a year-long Capstone design course that will involve designing, building, and testing rotary wing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. The first midshipmen in the rotorcraft track will graduate in May 2015.

     “We’re very excited about this program,” said Capt. Ken Ham, chair of the academy’s aerospace engineering department. “Thanks to it we will better prepare future officers to fill leadership positions related to vertical lift aircraft, and will be able to expand our capabilities in performing relevant rotorcraft research.”

     "The new rotor track offers an exciting opportunity to study rotorcraft as the primary focus rather than as an addendum to a fixed wing aviation curriculum” said Midshipman 2nd Class Daniel Kuerbitz of Cleveland, Ohio, one of the first midshipmen in the program. “I hope to fly helicopters for either the Navy or Marine Corps and the program offers a strong understanding of rotorcraft operations which will no doubt benefit my career as a pilot. I am excited at the chance to be among the first to study in this program."

      The program has its origins in an earlier Memorandum of Understanding between ONR and USNA signed in late 2008 which established an ONR Vertical Takeoff and Landing and Rotary

Wing (VTOL/RW) Chair in the Aerospace Engineering Department.  This chair was established to assist in developing a rotorcraft curriculum to enhance the education and training of academy aerospace majors assigned to rotary-wing aircraft in the Navy and Marine Corps.

     These efforts also established a successful ongoing program in ship airwake research led by Naval Academy Professor Murray Snyder. This program, also sponsored by ONR, utilizes a dedicated 108 foot-long Naval Academy training vessel to explore the turbulent airwake behind ship superstructures – a topic of critical importance to helicopter pilots.

     “This work goes beyond the academics,” says Snyder. “It represents serious applied research in direct support of a Navy-unique mission.” 22 midshipmen have participated in this program to date.

     “We’ve had a long-standing and fruitful relationship with the USNA Aerospace Department and see this new as the logical next step.” said Capt. David Woodbury, Acting Director of ONR’s Naval Air Warfare and Weapons Department. “This new agreement solidifies our commitment to Rotary Wing technology and building a base of future Naval officers who are better equipped to support emerging Navy and Marine Corps needs in rotary wing science and technology,”       

     Founded in 1845, the U.S. Naval Academy today is a prestigious four-year service academy that prepares midshipmen morally, mentally and physically to be professional officers in the naval service.  More than 4,400 men and women representing every state in the U.S. and several foreign countries make up the student body, known as the Brigade of Midshipmen. U.S. News and World Reports has recognized the Naval Academy as a top five undergraduate engineering school and a top 20 best liberal arts college.  Midshipmen learn from military and civilian instructors and participate in intercollegiate varsity sports and extracurricular activities. They also study subjects like small arms, drill, seamanship and navigation, tactics, naval engineering and weapons, leadership, ethics and military law.  Upon graduation, midshipmen earn a Bachelor of Science degree in a choice of 24 different subject majors and go on to serve at least five years of exciting and rewarding service as commissioned officers in the U.S. Navy or U.S. Marine Corps.

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