The Dean takes in a class at 3,000 feet over the Hudson Valley

By the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering

November 10th, 2016 | News, News and Features
Lt. Col. Rich Melnyk, the Aeronautical thread leader and senior pilot for the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering, discusses the principle of lift forces to the Dean of the Academic Board, Brig. Gen. Cindy Jebb. Photos by Maj. Scot Keith/USMA PAO

West Point has a lot of interesting academic classrooms. However, the Dean of the Academic Board spent a crisp Fall afternoon in a classroom and laboratory 3,000 feet over the Hudson Valley Nov. 3.

The Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering operates two Cessna 182 fixed-wing aircrafts as part of the Aeronautical Engineering curriculum and provided Brig. Gen. Cindy Jebb with an overview of the program and an orientation to their in-flight laboratory procedures.

Lt. Col. Rich Melnyk, the Aeronautical thread leader and senior pilot for CME, flew the aircraft and demonstrated aeronautical principles from all three flight labs to include high and low G flight, aircraft performance and stability, stalls and aircraft control.

The flight lab program has been in existence since 1970 and provides all cadets who take the Aeronautical Engineering courses with opportunities to see an aircraft up close, experience aerodynamic principles that they learn about in class and reinforce theoretical concepts about aerodynamics through the lab procedures.

Many of the concepts also reinforce basic topics from earlier engineering courses like Thermal-Fluids or Statics.

This program is unique in the country in that it is the only one where all students in the program get to fly in an aircraft for basic aerodynamic instruction, and is a true margin of excellence for the Academy.

The aeronautical courses are currently a subset of the Mechanical Engineering program but the department recently proposed an Aeronautical minor, built around the two fixed-wing and one helicopter course.

Cadets who take the Helicopter Aeronautics course also conduct a laboratory exercise in the Academy’s UH-72 Lakota.

The courses traditionally attract 30-40 cadets every year, many of whom also go on to serve as Army Aviators, bringing their practical and theoretical knowledge of aircraft to the branch.

“The flight lab from the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering offers a great example of academic excellence here at West Point.,” Jebb said. “Cadets get the chance to experience the intersection of theory and practice. More importantly, the hard work of our faculty, to include senior pilot and Academy Professor Melnyk, is the critical factor in this learning equation.

“We are only able to offer such amazing experiences here at West Point due to the dedication of our faculty and their personal and professional investment in cadets,” she concluded.