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$10M donation to boost Ohio State aviation program

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The Ohio State University Airport received a $10 million donation from the Austin E. Knowlton Foundation. Courtesy of Allison Dennis

The Ohio State University Airport received a $10 million donation from the Austin E. Knowlton Foundation. Courtesy of Allison Dennis

The Ohio State University Airport will provide new opportunities for OSU students after receiving a $10 million donation from the Austin E. Knowlton Foundation.

The Ohio State Airport, also known as Don Scott Field, was built in 1942. Today the airport mainly serves OSU’s aviation program, training students to be pilots and airport professionals, and carrying out a variety of research in aviation areas, according to OSU’s aviation website.

The airport is part of the university’s outreach to the local community, too, with nearly 2,000 high school students visiting the Don Scott Field every year, said David B. Williams, dean of the College of Engineering.

The airport also serves as a business travel hub for area companies like Worthington Industries, Cardinal Health Inc. and DLZ.

John Lindbergh, a Knowlton Foundation trustee, said in an email the Knowlton Foundation decided to make the donation to the airport for various reasons.

“Mr. Knowlton was an early adopter of business aviation in Ohio and The Ohio State University Airport was his home field,” he said. “The Ohio State University is unique in having its own airport — only a couple of other major universities have this distinction.”

Lindbergh said the foundation hopes the airport will be a grand gateway to the university with a new terminal, a new fixed-based operator and educational spaces.

Today the aviation program faces the same challenge confronting many other university programs.

“We have many more students than we have the space for,” said Williams. Many facilities are decades old and trail far behind other facilities of OSU.

With $10 million from Knowlton Foundation, OSU’s aviation program is expected to expand by 50 percent over the next few years, which means more students will have a shot at high-quality aviation training and starting their careers in aviation, said Williams.

The donation will support new airport construction, such as new flight simulators, classrooms and research labs, according to an OSU release. Williams added that the donation will also help ensure the infrastructure is capable of handling the growing traffic that comes to the airport.  

A modern terminal combined with high-quality educational facilities will tremendously improve the students’ learning experience as well as attract more competitive faculty to teach the program, said Williams.

Allison Dennis, a fourth-year in air transportation, as well as co-captain of OSU Flight Team, said the donation means a lot to aviation students.

“Because if you’re in our flight training program, you will end up being at the airport a lot,” she said.

Dennis said she believes the money should be used to upgrade educational facilities because it creates a better learning environment, which will directly benefit the students in the training programs.

“We will be talking to our students about their needs,” Williams said. However, he said the designing and building of airports is a special situation and college students are not experts, so it would be a complicated process to meet all technical standards and student needs.

Williams said they are in the early planning stages; no significant plan has been finalized since the donation was made. He added that it will probably take several years before breaking ground and new structures are completed.

“We have to ensure that we understand all the opportunities, there, at the airport,” said Williams. “We have to ensure that the community around the airport is deeply involved because the airport has a business helping drive the economy in central Ohio. There are so many parties who are involved in the planning of the airport … we need to take time to walk through these properly.”

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