Following a severe hailstorm Oct. 18 in Rutherford County that grounded the entire fleet and damaged 22 of 25 MTSU aircraft, officials have returned all but four planes to active service. The remaining four aircraft will be approved to fly within a few days.
The fleet includes 20 Diamond and five Piper aircraft. Four of the Diamond planes remain grounded until they are repaired and cleared for use, officials said.
Diamond President Pete Maurer commended MTSU for making the safety of its aerospace students a top priority and making the conservative call to ground all the planes.
“With 400 students in the program, we knew they needed a very quick solution,” Maurer said.
The planes received a reported $250,000 in damages. All were insured, officials said.
“There was much public consternation and speculation about the extent of damage and reparability of the all-composite Diamonds,” Maurer said. “I had a feeling that this would not be nearly as bad as was being speculated.”
Maurer said the composite construction is tough and resilient. There were only two of the planes’ outer surface was penetrated, and the damage was limited to the area of the spars where the outer skin would not absorb the golf-ball-sized hail, he added.
“That is why we immediately dispatched our experts to assist MTSU in assessing the damage, air-worthiness and reparability of the Diamonds,” he said.
“The bottom line is that the Diamond airframes suffered very little damage in comparison to the metal aircraft, and the minimal structural damage that did occur was quickly repaired,” said MTSU Department of Aerospace Chair Wayne Dornan.
Including the 400 professional pilot concentration students, the MTSU aerospace program has grown to 750 students in five concentrations. It is regarded as one of the leading flight schools in the nation.