Glider pilots and builders from Starkville and across the country joined Mississippi State officials Nov. 1 to dedicate the university's Raspet Flight Research Laboratory as a National Landmark of Soaring.
The dedication ceremony at Starkville's Bryan Field airport designated the flight lab as one of only 13 such sites established nationwide since 1980 by the National Soaring Museum. The ceremony recognized a half century of motorless flight history at Raspet, now the only soaring landmark site in the Southeast.
"It's a wonderful facility with a wonderful history and a wonderful future," said Tony Vizzini, head of MSU's department of aerospace engineering. The department serves as the lab's administrative home.
"We have a jewel here and an opportunity to educate our students in true flight," added Vizzini, who was joined as a program participant by MSU Interim Vice President for Research Jonathan Pote and A. Wayne Bennett, dean of the university's Bagley College of Engineering.
The plaque officially marking the soaring landmark pays homage to the late August Raspet for his "pioneering drag reduction and suction boundary layer research." Raspet founded and led the MSU flight research program from 1947 until his death in a 1960 plane crash at the same airfield.
"For over 50 years, this flight research laboratory has fostered improvements in sailplane design," said Raspet's son David, who also participated in the ceremony. Now residing in Fountain Valley, Calif., David Raspet is a 1962 MSU graduate.
Flight laboratory director David Lawrence served as master of ceremonies for the event. Other program participants included Robert Gaines, president of the National Soaring Museum in Elmira, N.Y.; and representatives of the Soaring Society of America and Vintage Sailplane Association. Former flight director George Bennett was among a number of soaring luminaries who participated in a roundtable discussion of Gus Raspet's contributions to the sport later in the afternoon.
Paul MacCready of Pasadena, Calif., internationally known as the "father of human-powered flight," was the scheduled keynote speaker for an evening banquet. Morning activities featured the flight of a vintage sailplane piloted by Bob Ball, with Katherine Wood of the U.S. Postal Service as a passenger. The plane landed 30 minutes after take-off carrying special postmarked mail.