Aviation Department History

Black and White Vintage Image of Aviation Inspection

The setting of the cornerstone for San José State University’s Aeronautics program began in the 1936-37 academic year. A group of students formed a flying club with the Advice and council of Frank Petersen — a professor in the Mathematics Department. This activity produced the spark for the initiation of an aviation program that continues to thrive to this day.

With the approach of WWII San José Stare became one of only thirteen institutions selected nationwide to participate in the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPT). War time restrictions forced mandatory cessation of such flying in the coastal region. Actual flight training was moved to Ely, Nevada. To complement the flight program a maintenance curriculum was initiated with extensive laboratory facilities situated in the basement of the “old” science building on Fourth Street.

After the conflict concluded Donald L. James was added to the staff by Dr. Ralph J Smith, engineering program head. His assignment was to provide leadership for the aviation program and things progressed rapidly from that point. This included new Quonset buildings on campus and eventually extensive facilities on a five acre site at Mineta San José International Airport. In 2011 the Aviation Program moved to the very active Reid Hillview Airport. To complement this installation on campus class rooms and a simulator laboratory provided convenient educational facilities.

Flight activities have long been conducted through student flying clubs that are closely associated with the university, this pattern continues to this day. The Aviation Program continues to serve students who are interested in technical, business and flying careers within the broad field of Aviation/Aerospace.