ERAU Hosts Its First Annual Sports & Aviation Symposium

Rev. David Keck/Chaplain

On Monday, November 26, students, faculty, and staff gathered for Riddle’s first annual Sports and Aviation Symposium. Their goals were to explore career and research opportunities in sports and aviation for students, faculty, and staff by examining the many ways these two multi-billion-dollar sectors influence each other. The theme of this year’s symposium was Developing the Field. Presentations were a collegial effort to describe the contours and significance of this area of inquiry. Undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and staff all gave talks, and each of the colleges as well as Athletics was represented.   

Business-related topics included airline sponsorships of teams and venues; the importance of golf for Avianca Airlines; the impact of major sports events on air travel; and Air Serbia’s use of Serbian athletes for marketing and promoting national pride. A talk on career opportunities for those interested in sports and aviation also highlighted the ways student-athletes bring valued skills to companies.   

Aerospace engineering topics included the engineering of planes to improve the performance of elite athletes and the contributions of the sport of air racing to airplane design and manufacturing. One presentation explored how the needs of sporting events shape airport design.   

Presentations from the field of Human Factors included a discussion of circadian rhythms, air travel, and baseball; the effects of hypoxia, and medevac operations for sports-related injuries.   

Other topics included the increasingly significant impact of drones for sports and the historical connections between the requirements of being a pilot and having an athletic background. John Paul Riddle’s determination to include sports and recreation as part of his school was also highlighted. A poster session on how sports has prepared astronauts and a presentation on space suit design and the benefits of being a competitive athlete demonstrated that these connections apply to the aerospace sector as well.    

Riddle’s interest in sports and aviation goes way back. One presenter explored our “all pilots” basketball team formed in 1929. It is entirely possible that this was the first organized sports team in America to fly to their away games.


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