The reality of electric airplanes may be closer than you think. Earlier this month at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards Air Force Base, NASA unveiled the X-57 “Maxwell,” the agency’s first experimental electric aircraft and NASA’s first manned X-plane in 20 years.

The X-Factor

Electric propulsion technology is the driving force behind the advance of this new era of aviation that can make planes quieter, more efficient and more environmentally friendly. NASA’s aeronautical innovators are on the cusp of demonstrating these revolutionary aviation milestones. Here are a few of the ways the NASA X-57 will accomplish these advancements and address some of today’s pressing passenger concerns. The X-57 will:

  • Be powered solely by batteries, eliminating carbon emissions
  • Demonstrate how demand could lower the need for the lead-based aviation fuel which is currently being used today
  • Reduce noise levels compared to conventional piston engines
  • Be equipped with a specially designed wing and 14 electric motors
  • Reduce flight times and fuel usage
  • Reduce overall operating costs for small aircraft by 40 percent

Vaughn students stay ahead of industry trends and learn about these types of advancements by hearing from the several industry experts from a variety of influential companies such as Airbus and Pratt & Whitney who come to the College to speak on topics such as these. Vaughn also hosts several internship, career and graduate fairs throughout the year, so there are many opportunities for networking and planning for future careers. Vaughn also sponsors student club and association trips to engineering, technology, management and aviation conferences where students present research, learn about technical advances and create connections for potential job opportunities. Check out the events and news pages for upcoming events and happenings at the college.

Years in the making

NASA’s X-planes date back almost 75 years to the invention of the Bell X-1, which put supersonic flight on the map. Since then, X-planes have been used by NASA, the US Air Force and other government agencies to explore the flight mechanics of vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL), movable wings and other aviation advancements.

In 2015, NASA began its journey working on the X-57, but not in a way you might imagine. Instead of building the plane from the ground up, NASA started modifying an Italian twin-engine propeller plane called Tecnam P2006T. You might be wondering why they chose to use a small propeller plane for such a groundbreaking task. The reason lies in how the aerodynamics proved to be more favorable for an electric airplane that uses propellers.

There’s no denying the modification of the NASA X-57 is an exciting experience, but that’s just one piece of the equation. What about training the pilots to fly an electric airplane? NASA flight control engineers and technicians developed an interactive X-57 simulator at their Armstrong Flight Research Center in California to provide pilots with a virtual flight experience based on what the X-57 would feel like in the air. This simulator experience prepared pilots for future X-57 flight-testing phases and helped familiarize them with reaction times and maneuvers.

Taking it one step at a time

The X-57 Maxwell project consists of four configurations and stages of research distinguished by specific modifications. Currently, the X-57 is in its “Mod II” configuration that features the first all-electric flight hardware. The third phase began at the same time as Mod II to take the X-57 to a new level of electric-powered flight. Some of the most notable and noticeable changes from the Mod II configuration include:

  • Using electric cruise motors to replace the two combustion motors that were in the original aircraft
  • Development and integration of an experimental high-speed ratio wing
  • Reduction in wing area, which contributes to more efficient cruise flight through decreasing friction drag

With the Mod III configuration currently in the works, it’s all about the wing. This upgrade will make space for additional electric propellers and a high-aspect-ratio design to allow the current pair of electric motors to move the wingtips. The final product will feature six small propellers on each wing to be situated on the leading edge along with a larger propeller at the tip.

Nearing the launch

The X-57 hasn’t taken to the skies yet, but NASA says it’s ready for its debut and is hoping to fly it in its final configuration by late 2020. Although the X-57 won’t be as fast and have the ability to fly the same long distances as traditional aircraft, the agency says the electric airplane’s range is suitable for short flights that will be quieter and more efficient.

Vaughn makes it possible

Exciting advancements in aviation technology begin with the knowledge to make it happen. Are you looking for a futureproof career? At Vaughn, we offer a wide range of aviation and engineering and technology degrees to make it possible. Apply today.


November is National Aviation History Month, when the accomplishments and milestone achievements of men and women aviators are recognized. In honor of this celebration, Vaughn College has chronicled some of the industry’s most momentous first flights in the history of aviation. Test your knowledge to see how many you know.

1783—First Hot-Air Balloon Flight

Inspired by a paper bag rising on the flow of heated air, French brothers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier launched their first hot air balloon, which carried a sheep, a duck and a rooster.

1852—First Powered Flight

Jules Henri Giffard, a French engineer and inventor, built the first full-size steam-powered airship. This first powered flight took off 51 years before that of the famous Wright Brothers.

1884—First Roundtrip Flight

French Army Corps of Engineers Charles Renard and Arthur C. Krebs were the inventors and military officers who became credited with building an elongated balloon that successfully took off―flew five miles―and landed at the same location.

1903—The Wright Brothers and the First Flight

Brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright pioneered the principles for the first powered airplane when they flew their Wright Flyer on a 12-second test flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

1911—First United States (US) Woman Pilot

Harriet Quimby, an early American aviator and movie screenwriter, was the first woman to be awarded a US pilot’s certificate in the United States. She was also the first woman to fly across the English Channel. As a result of these accomplishments, she is credited for influencing the role of women in aviation.

1914—World’s First Commercial Airline

Passengers aboard The St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line made history on the world’s first commercial airline service between St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida—in just 20 minutes.

1927—Charles Lindbergh and the First Solo Transatlantic Flight

Charles Lindbergh―American aviator, military officer, author, inventor and activist―made history as he piloted the Spirit of St. Louis down the dirt runway of Roosevelt Field in New York and landed in Paris 34 hours later, making him the first pilot to solo a nonstop trans-Atlantic flight.

1947—Breaking the Sound Barrier

Aboard the US Air Force experimental rocket Bell X-1, renowned United States Air Force officer and flying ace Chuck Yeager was the first pilot to exceed the speed of sound.

1958—First Domestic Jet Passenger Service

National Airlines is credited with the inaugural jet passenger service between New York and Miami.

1961—The First Man in Space

Aboard the Soviet Vostok 1 spacecraft, Yuri Gagarin was the first human to travel in space. His 108- minute orbit of the Earth launched the era of manned spaceflight and escalated the race between the US and the Soviet Union, which ultimately led to the first manned moon mission.

1969—Apollo 11: First Men on the Moon

US astronauts Neil Armstrong and “Buzz” Aldrin were the first men to set foot on the moon, where they left behind their footprints, part of the spacecraft and an American flag.

1971—Salyut 1: The First Space Station

The Salyut 1 was the world’s first space station that helped develop methods for living and working in space over long periods of time.

1981—Space Shuttle Exploration

Exactly 20 years after Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space, the space shuttle Columbia blasted into space on its first historic flight. Over the next 30 years, this space shuttle and its four sister ships carried more than 850 astronauts into space, despite the tragedies that would befall the Challenger, and in time, Columbia itself.

1993—First Woman Co-pilot on Commercial Supersonic Plane

British Airways pilot Barbara Harmer was the first woman to fly as first officer on the Concorde from London to New York City.

2005—First Non-stop Solo Flight Around the World Without Refueling

Steve Fossett―American businessman, adventurer and record-setting aviator―set the record for the first non-stop solo flight around the world without refueling. Flying aboard the Virgin Atlantic “Globalflyer,” Fossett travelled almost 23,000 miles around the world, beginning at Salina, Kansas and arriving back 67 hours later.

2017—First All-Female Flight Crew

Southwest Airlines celebrated its first all-female flight crew of two pilots and four flight attendants.

2018—First Space Mission Where US Astronauts Were Women

NASA flight engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor and NASA astronaut Anne McClain made history in Expedition 57―the first space mission where the only two astronauts representing the United States were both female.

2019—First All-Female Spacewalk

Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir floated into the history books when they became NASA’s first all-female spacewalk. Koch and Meir were the first US female astronauts to venture outside of the International Space Station.

First experiences leave lasting impressions that can pave the way to future endeavors. Are you ready to take the first step toward a career in aviation? See all that’s possible with an aviation degree from Vaughn College.


Drone enthusiasts are flying high in the month of November as the first-ever National Drone Safety Awareness Week kicked off on Monday, November 4, 2019. This week-long event was promoted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to help educate the public about drone safety and spread awareness by providing support to the drone community.

Are you interested in earning your drone pilot license or do you just want to learn more about the exciting world of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)? Check out how Vaughn College celebrated this inaugural event to peak your passion in becoming a drone pilot.

Vaughn Celebrated National Drone Safety Awareness Week

In honor of the FAA’s Drone Safety Awareness Week, Vaughn invites you to be a part of the drone community by:

  • Enrolling in a drone course: Drone Laws and Introduction to Unmanned Aerial Systems
  • FAA Eastern Region Regional Administrator, Jennifer Solomon, was on campus on Friday, November 8, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. to discuss drone safety and the need for young talent at the FAA
  • Joining the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Club
  • Attending International Drone Day in May 2020

A Week of Drone Safety

Whether someone is currently a drone pilot, is thinking about becoming one, or just wants to learn the latest about safe drone operations for recreational use, there’s something for everyone. Some of the topics explored included how public safety agencies are using drones to create safer communities; how drones are instrumental in infrastructure and agriculture; how drones are revolutionizing commercial and medical package delivery; and how drone photography helps the real estate and insurance business.

Why Drone Safety is Important

Operating a drone is a privilege. It comes with great responsibility, along with the education and understanding of operation within the FAA guidelines. Keeping the world’s safest and most efficient aerospace is the FAA’s primary mission—and drones are part of that responsibility.

Today, drones are being used more than ever before, making communities safer while providing enhanced career opportunities to pilots. So, how does one become a drone pilot? If this is a career possibility that interests you, learn how Vaughn sets the pace to help you earn your Remote Pilot Certificate.

Staying the Course

Flying a commercial drone requires a Remote Pilot Certificate. “At Vaughn, we offer the courses you need that lead to certification so you can start working in your field sooner than later,” said Loretta Alkalay, adjunct professor at Vaughn College. “Enrolling in our Drone Law course is a great place to start. It’s one of the key safety benefits to becoming a drone pilot.” Alkalay teaches drone law at Vaughn and brings years of experience as an aviation attorney and former regional counsel for the FAA. Her personal passion of taking photographs with drones earned her a two-page spread in UAS Magazine.

A few reasons students are encouraged to take this course include:

  • Acquiring a better understanding of controlled and uncontrolled airspace
  • Understanding weather patterns and how it impacts flying
  • Learning about aerodynamic issues
  • Gaining the power of professionalism

In August 2016, the FAA released Part 107, which provides information to individuals who are interested in obtaining their Remote Pilot Certificate.

Current recreational drone safety rules at a glance

The FAA is committed to drone safety. Here’s a quick glance of the current recreational rules to keep in mind:

  • Register your drone―the cost is $5
  • Fly drone at or below 400 feet
  • Keep drone within your line of sight
  • Be aware of FAA Airspace Restrictions
  • Respect privacy
  • Don’t act foolish
  • Never fly near other aircraft, especially near airports
  • Never fly over groups of people, public events, or stadiums full of people
  • Never fly near emergencies such as fires or hurricane recovery efforts
  • Never fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Are you interested in the aviation industry or becoming a drone pilot? Discover all that’s possible with an aviation degree from Vaughn College.

Leadership, a love for aviation and his exceptional people skills were the driving forces behind Vaughn graduate Otha Ward’s ’19 pursuit of a career in airport management. At 22 years old, Ward is making a name for himself at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), where he holds the position of airport operations agent.

A day in the life

Airports operate under Part 139 Certification issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to ensure safety in air transportation. As an airport operations agent, Ward is responsible for upholding and meeting the standards of Airport Operating Certificates and assist in keeping airport operations within FAA compliance. On any given day, Ward is responsible for numerous aspects of airport safety. Here’s a snapshot of some of his responsibilities:

  • Operations: Bird strikes are a reality in aviation safety which can have catastrophic results. Ward explained how keeping wildlife under control is no easy task, as JFK airport lies near a protected wildlife preserve, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. “My job is to ensure the runways and taxiways are clean, safe and free of any wildlife,” he said. Ward pointed out how they never use any lethal methods but instead rely on devices that make loud noises to scare the wildlife away, such as pyrotechnics.
  • Construction: Airport construction sights must be managed to the highest standards to ensure pilots do not fly into a construction zone. Among the responsibilities of the sight safety observer―or SSO―is to keep the site safe by controlling the lighting, providing the sufficient number of security guards and placing the low-mass barriers in the correct positions. “Managing the construction site is one of my biggest responsibilities,” Ward stated. “It’s my job to keep the site safe. I have the control to shut the site down if I feel it’s unsafe and I have done so in the past. There’s no cap when it comes to safety.”
  • Relocating Airplanes: Another aspect of his job is to relocate airplanes when space is at a minimum. “We have a separate ‘parking area’ for these planes. I work directly with air traffic control to keep everything flowing smoothly on the ground.”

Why he chose Vaughn College

Growing up in Baldwin, NY, Ward loved to play sports but also shared his time with his extended family who lived in New York City. After high school, he knew he wanted to pursue a career in the aviation industry. But where? Being familiar with the area, Ward researched colleges in the neighboring towns and boroughs. “I was blown away by Vaughn College and their recognition as being ranked number one in upward mobility,” he said. “The high success rate of students finding great jobs in their field after graduation sealed the deal for me. Choosing Vaughn was a smart choice.” In fact, 99% of Vaughn graduates are employed or continue their education within one year, and 83% are employed within their chosen field. Ward is a perfect example of a student who has achieved this and more.

The pathway from Vaughn to JFK

While pursuing his bachelor’s degree in airport management at Vaughn, Ward explained how the faculty, staff and curriculum all worked together seamlessly to ensure his success.

  • Summer internship: The career services department was instrumental in helping place Ward in a summer internship at JFK, where he said he earned valuable experience and exposure to the industry. His exceptional work ethic and performance afforded him an extension of his internship through the academic year, where he worked his way up and gained further experience.
  • Leadership roles: In his junior year, Ward gained more proficiency and exposure by holding leadership positions in campus clubs. He was the president of the Vaughn student chapter of the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) and vice president of the student chapter of the Women in Aviation organization. As an alumnus of the College, he currently serves on the president’s board with industry leaders.
  • Outstanding professors: There’s no denying Ward received an outstanding education and gained rewarding experience at Vaughn. He credits his success with not only the professionalism and knowledge of his professors but the firsthand experience from the adjunct professors. “They teach and we learn in real time. It’s one of the most valuable parts of a Vaughn education.”

Three months prior to his graduation in May 2019, Ward began working in his current position at JFK. “I knew it was a rigorous application process for the job at JFK, so I submitted my resume early,” Ward explained. The three-step process took months to complete, but Ward said it all paid off in the end. After submitting his resume, he was required to take the Airport Operations Agent (AOA) exam. Then, the waiting process began when the decision board narrowed down the applicants and asked them back for an interview.

Ward credits Vaughn with helping him pursue his dream and land a rewarding career at an international airport. “Vaughn is a special place,” he stated humbly. “The College has connections that sets it apart from other institutions—making that one of its greatest assets. I’m grateful to everyone at Vaughn for helping me get to where I am today.”