Charlotte AIR Institute partnership celebrated with reception and art dedication

Categories: Uncategorized

William States Lee College of Engineering celebrated the launch of the Charlotte Aviation Innovation and Research Institute (AIR) Thursday evening with a recognition of partners, an art unveiling and a student research showcase. 

The reception was held on the UNC Charlotte campus and was well attended by multiple members of the UNC Charlotte Board of Trustees, several elected officials, and many representatives from industry partners. Attendees heard about the concept, inception and development from speakers Rob Keynton, dean of the W.S. Lee College of Engineering, and Jack Christine, Chief Infrastructure Officer of the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. They also learned the latest university growth updates and successes from Sharon Gaber, Chancellor of UNC Charlotte.  

Charlotte AIR Institute Co-Directors Srinivas Pulugurtha (L) and Tara Cavallline (R) with Dean Rob Keynton (Center)

Co-directors Tara Cavalline and Srinivas Pulugurtha were joined by several faculty and staff of the interdisciplinary, cross-campus team who will focus their research and technology transfer efforts to address a variety of aviation sector needs. 

A highlight of the evening was the unveiling of “First in Aviation,” a painting that was performed live at the Aviation Seminar in October 2023 at the airport. The art was donated to the William States Lee College of Engineering by the AIR Institute’s industry partners, and now hangs in the lobby of the Albert & Freeman Energy Production and Infrastructure Center (EPIC), dedicated to and commemorating the AIR Institute partnership and the launch.

During the second half of the reception, guests visited four stations of a “research showcase” where students and faculty demonstrate some of the research and academic work currently underway.

The Institute will also support education and training of the future workforce through new curriculum offerings such as the existing courses in Airport Planning and Design and Terminal Design. To extend the impact for a workforce pipeline, the Institute will enhance connections with K-12 students and the broader community under the leadership of the Sullenberger Aviation Museum. One of the key goals of the institute partners is framing opportunities for equitable access to STEM education pathways.

In 2023, the Charlotte AIR Institute received recognition from the UNC System as a formal research center, and already has ongoing research projects funded by the Federal Aviation Administration, the North Carolina Department of Transportation and other entities. With the partnerships and support, the AIR Institute is working toward developing a more durable, sustainable airport infrastructure, more connected vehicles and smarter transportation.

The Charlotte AIR Institute is the first partnership of its kind in the nation, joining Charlotte Douglas International Airport – the region’s transportation leader – and UNC Charlotte – the region’s talent powerhouse. Together with Sullenberger Aviation Museum, this partnership will provide a workforce pipeline that will become the model for cities across the U.S. 

Sullenberger Aviation Museum logo
William States Lee College of Engineering Logo

Industry Partners

A.G. Zoutewelle Surveyors
Anser Advisory
Delta Airport Consultants
HNTB Corporation
Holder Construction
Kimley-Horn and Associates
Messer Construction Co.
RS&H, Inc.

Sweetwater Utility Exploration, LLC
Talbert, Bright & Ellington
T.Y. Lin International
Walls Engineering
W.K. Dickson & Co., Inc.