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Aviation Students Claim Top Honors for Second Straight Year at National Aviation Conference

Maggie Smith and Adam Ackermann

Five aviation students recently attended the 91st Annual American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) Conference in Boston, highlighted by a top finish in the Academic Research Competition for the second straight year.

The project, by senior Adam Ackermann and recent graduate Maggie Smith, outlined best practices for using social media during airport emergencies and was voted first place by judges from across the aviation industry. In all, more than 2,500 professionals attended the conference which included collegiate aviation programs from across the country.

AAAE in Boston

“Representing EKU at this level was awesome,” said Ackermann. “The fact that we were able to repeat as winners of the research competition helped us make a lot of connections. We are going to try for three in a row next year in Denver.”

His partner, Smith, seemed to agree. “We wanted to do something that was relevant in an industry that is always changing,” she said. “The competition was an amazing networking opportunity and we came away with lasting experiences we’ll have for the rest of our careers.”

Last year, Cameron Sidor and Aviation faculty member Kyle Knezevich presented a poster on enhancing airport safety which took first place in the competition. Sidor, who graduated in May, also attended the conference this year and now works at the Louisville Muhammed Ali International Airport. EKU’s Student Government Association (SGA) helped the group cover the costs to attend the conference in addition to most of the students receiving scholarships from AAAE directly.

AAAE in Boston

From L-R: Nicholas Taylor, Adam Ackermann, Christopher Hammons, Cameron Sidor, and Maggie Smith.

According to Knezevich, who also serves as the faculty advisor for the AAAE at EKU group, the “secret” of EKU Aviation is out. “Just a few years ago no one here knew who we were. Now, our students are not only competing against other top-tier universities, but they’re winning. That has not gone unnoticed in an industry as connected as this one.”

In addition to helping students organize the trip, Knezevich also spoke on a panel at the conference which highlighted the partnership built between EKU and Blue Grass Airport in Lexington. “The relationship we have with Blue Grass Airport is the envy of university aviation programs and airports around the country,” he said. “We are extremely fortunate to have such great partners willing to work with our students on so many levels. From internships to part-time employment, to volunteer experiences and other educational opportunities, they are a huge part of our success.”

Knezevich also noted that he sees the potential for other partnerships around the region as the program continues to grow. "We now have several graduates and an intern at Louisville International and a couple in Cincinnati too. We are just getting started."

Also attending the conference was another recent Aviation Program graduate, Christopher Hammons who has accepted a position with the Portland international Jetport in Maine and sophomore Nicholas Taylor, who is pursuing a dual concentration in both professional flight and aerospace management.

For additional information about EKU Aviation, please visit

Published on July 08, 2019

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