NEWS Baylor Aviation Accident Investigation Laboratory bound for Waco Regional Airport

Baylor Aviation Accident Investigation Laboratory bound for Waco Regional Airport

Baylor University aviation students will soon learn to investigate air crashes using wreckage from actual crashed planes.

The Baylor Institute of Aeronautical Sciences will build an aviation accident investigation laboratory on a little more than an acre of land leased at the Waco Regional Airport.

“We will be showing a set of wreckage on site,” William Cade III, director of the institute, said by phone Friday.

Students in the plane crash investigation course will go to an outdoor lab to practice forensic investigations, Cade said.

“The wreckage will be set up to look like different crash scenarios,” Andy Olves, who teaches a class on crash investigation, said by phone Friday. “Then, when the students came to see it, they would document the parts, look for welts on the ground and try to figure out how it fell to where it was after impact.”

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A map included in documents from the Nov. 15 Waco City Council meeting shows where the Baylor Institute of Aeronautics and Science plans to build an aviation accident investigation laboratory at Waco Regional Airport. Teachers will use planes that crashed in 2016 to create simulated crash scenarios for students to investigate.

City of Waco, Provided

The lab and reconfigurable aircraft wreckage from an actual plane that crashed in 2016 will allow students to actually apply what they learn in the classroom, Olves said.

“At the end of each lab (session), they should assume how it fell to the ground where it was,” he said.

The Waco City Council approved a five-year lease for the site on Nov. 15, and the city will charge the university $5,000 a year, according to council documents.

Olvis, an adjunct instructor at Baylor who works full-time with the Federal Aviation Administration as an aviation accident investigator, brought the idea of ​​the accident lab to Baylor. Large aviation degree programs at other major universities have similar labs, he said.

“The problem that universities usually have is getting wreckage,” Olves said.

Agenda - Tuesday, November 15, 2022

A sketch in Waco City Council documents shows elements of a planned aviation accident investigation laboratory for the Baylor Institute of Aeronautical Sciences.

City of Waco, Provided

Even small commercial aircraft are usually insured, and insurers often sell recovered aircraft to air salvage yards after a crash, Olves said. Olves said he discovered an uninsured plane that crashed in Val Verde County in 2016 and was able to arrange for the wreckage to be donated to education.

Olves teaches an aircraft accident investigation course for the Baylor Institute in the fall and an aviation safety course in the spring. Cade said the institute plans to have outdoor seating and a display of wreckage in the lab should Olves students need it for the fall 2023 semester.

During his 21 years as an air traffic controller in the U.S. Marine Corps, Olves learned to investigate “Class A accidents,” he said. After retiring from the Marine Corps in 2010, he began an air traffic controller training program at Texas State Technical College, he said.

The following year, the National Transportation Safety Board hired him as an air crash investigator. A few weeks earlier, in September, the FAA had poached him from the NTSB.

Olves said he has lived in Waco and taught at the institute since 2020.

“The purpose of an accident investigation is to find the cause,” Olves said.

He then said the FAA and the aviation industry work hard to ensure that all pilots and aircraft maintenance programs prevent whatever causes the crashes.

Cade said Baylor’s aviation program has students complete flight training and a pilot’s license as part of a bachelor’s degree program.

The training at the outdoor lab facility means graduates with a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical science from Baylor will be better prepared for crash investigations, which they may have to do early in their flying careers, Olves said .

The Baylor Institute of Aeronautical Sciences promotional video is from Baylor University.

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