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MTSU Fleet Ravaged By Hail (Revised)

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A hail event at Murfreesboro Municipal Airport may have damaged up to 17 of 20 Diamond trainers operated by Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) and left the school's entire fleet grounded, temporarily putting a stop to flight instruction for hundreds of students. MTSU has roughly 400 students studying in its professional pilot concentrations and it operates one of the largest fleets of Diamond trainers in the country. Diamond is sending experts from Canada to inspect potentially hidden (and apparent) physical damage to the Diamonds' composite skins. Dr. Wayne Dornan, Chairman of the school's Aerospace Department, told AVweb Thursday that the DA-40s operated by MTSU carry glass cockpits, some with synthetic vision, and cost roughly $365,000 each, new. MTSU also has five Piper Seminoles and they were also damaged. MTSU's aircraft weren't the only ones to suffer. The airport was hosting a regional competition and aircraft from other schools were also damaged.

Purdue University, Southern Illinois University, Lewis University, and Indiana State University were all participating in a Region 8 SAFECON event at the airport. At least one of those schools received special FAA clearance top fly two of their aircraft home after the storm, according to Dornan. For MTSU, all trainers were at least temporarily grounded grounded following the storm. Only three of the school's aircraft were spared because they were hangared for maintenance at the time. According to MTSU news liason, Randy Weiler, the hail that fell on the school's nearby campus was mostly pea- to marble-sized, but he noted that local news accounts reported some hail stones roughly the size of a ping pong ball. The storm was sudden and the hail appeared to be isolated. Aircraft were flying just minutes before it arrived. "An hour earlier, there was nothing heading our way. All of a sudden I turned around and it started to rain and hail on campus," Weiler said.

Moving forward, MTSU is "erring on the side of safety and will leave all 22 affected aircraft on the ground," Dornan told AVweb, "until their condition can be properly assessed." MTSU's Dornan told AVweb that the school's first priority now "is to get our students back in the air, but back in the air safely." "We have some Pipers, and we know what to do with those, but not the (composite) Diamonds," Dornan said. "If we have to get new aircraft, we will. We have a commitment to our students that we will fulfill." Representatives from Diamond were expected to arrive Sunday night or Monday to provide expert inspection. From there, MTSU will devise an action plan. Until then, the school's three remaining trainers that had been hangared for maintenance, will be repaired and brought back online.

Cratered surface of the moon.

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Dents in control surfaces. (Cessna 152.)

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Hole in HS fairing.

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Hole in windshield.

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Holes in Beechcraft Skipper's wingtip.

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Holes in landing lights on Diamond DA-40.

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Major crack in DA-40 wing. (Almost every airplane has ones like this.)

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