History of the Aviation Institute.
The Aviation Institute was founded with support from Omaha’s civic and business leaders including Charles Durham, Walter Scott, and Mike Harper. Don Smithey, former Executive Director of the Omaha Airport Authority, spearheaded the effort by working with Otto Bauer and John Faar of UNO’s administration to establish the Institute in 1990. The Institute’s first Director, Bill Shea, established a foundation for the development of the undergraduate degree program with the Dean of the College of Public Affairs and Community Service, David Hinton. They worked to integrate the Institute into the College and the Department of Public Administration. The Institute now offers a Bachelor of Science in Aviation with concentrations in Air Transport Administration and Professional Flight as well as concentrations in Aviation and Transportation as part of the School of Public Administration’s MPA and PhD programs. A minor in Aviation was also developed for students at the University who were not in the Aviation program, but wanted a portion of an aviation curriculum to support their major. In order to advance the reach of the aviation program, the Aviation Institute began a partnership with Omaha Burke High School in the fall of 2010 by adding aviation as an option in their dual enrollment program.
In more recent years, the Aviation Institute has had some major facility upgrades. In the fall of 2008, the Aviation Institute along with their counterparts in the College of Public Affairs and Community Service moved into the newly renovated CPACS Building. This also included an upgraded Aviation Resource Center and Advanced Simulation Facility. An addition to the Advanced Simulation Facility was made in August of 2012 with the addition of a full motion G1000 Simulator.
The contributions of those who have influenced the Institute’s success are recognized each year. The Durham Distinguished Lecture Series celebrates Charles Durham’s contribution each fall. The William F. Shea Award recognizes Bill Shea’s contributions as the Institute’s founding director. Don Smithey’s contributions are recognized each spring at the Institute’s Honors Convocation with the awarding of the Don Smithey Scholarship to one of the Institute’s students.