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5001 Airport Plaza Dr
Ste 150

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(562) 627-5870

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A Brief History of Embry-Riddle

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  3. A Brief History of Embry-Riddle

From Storied Past to Ascendant Future

The founders of Embry-Riddle were visionary entrepreneurs with dreams that gave rise to a reality bigger than their imaginations.

The Embry-Riddle Company was founded over 90 years ago to promote aviation through airmail carrier, aircraft sales, teaching the daring to fly, providing thrill rides, performing air shows, and even transporting passengers on their scheduled mail routes.

From a desk in a hotel lobby, the company is credited with operating the first air travel agency, having organized other mail carriers and selling their passenger space.

The Embry-Riddle story runs deep into the roots of aviation’s history and continues to expand its reach across various industries through its degree offerings and innovative research in the study of aerospace, applied sciences, cybersecurity, business, engineering, security, and space.

Embry-Riddle Company Launches in 1925

On December 17, 1925, on the 22nd anniversary of the Wright brothers’ historic flight at Kitty Hawk, T. Higbee Embry and John Paul Riddle struck their deal. Embry was an entrepreneur who recognized the profitable possibilities of aviation. Riddle was a dashing barnstormer who as child questioned why God had not given him wings. He dreamed of flying before he knew that such a possibility was on the horizon. Together, they launched the Embry-Riddle Company and maintained flexibility to adjust to demand and opportunity. Riddle was raised by a father who was an educator both at home and professionally. He was a high school principal in rural Kentucky who taught his son to be a lifelong learner and a teacher. Despite the multifaceted nature of the early company, Riddle always dreamed of building an “Air University.”

In 1929, Embry-Riddle was one of the first five flying schools in the country to be certified under the Department of Commerce’s newly-minted Air Commerce Act. However, later that year, the Embry-Riddle Company merged with the newly-formed Aviation Corporation (AVCO), an alliance that came with a price. Although Embry-Riddle’s airline and cargo routes remained prosperous, the company no longer sold aircraft, and in 1930 AVCO closed Embry-Riddle’s flying school. A year later, Embry left the company and retired to California, where he lived until his death in 1946.

In 1932, AVCO moved its Embry-Riddle Division to St. Louis where it was merged into a new division called American Airways, leading the original Embry-Riddle Company to cease its independent enterprise for a few years.

Riddle moved to New York, then to Dallas, and on to St. Louis, the new headquarters of American Airways. After less than a year in St. Louis with the fledgling airline, Riddle left the company in 1932 and moved to Florida – a location and climate he thought offered tremendous potential for aviation. He envisioned Miami as the gateway to South America, a new horizon for aviation.

Embry-Riddle School of Aviation Opens in South Florida 

Between his arrival in South Florida and 1939, Riddle had opened three aviation companies. A seaplane base on Biscayne Bay was his fourth endeavor, with a new partner, John McKay. They named it Embry-Riddle School of Aviation. Growth came swiftly and another base of operations was established at Miami’s Municipal Airport. The charismatic Riddle was known to anyone who had interests in aviation. His friend Howard Hughes even called on Riddle to act as tour guide and escort to his friend, film actress Jane Russell, while he was busy making his deals. These were captivating times in a fashionable city, but the looming opportunity was anything
but glamorous.

School Expands to Train World War II Pilots and Mechanics  

War drums were becoming deafening across the Atlantic and growing louder in the Pacific. Riddle and McKay readied the school to train pilots and mechanics. Each had long believed that if another war were to break out, airplanes would play a major role. Pearl Harbor proved them right.

Training facilities had already expanded to four sites and cadets poured in from the Army Air Corps and the Royal Air Force. Five hundred cadets could be trained during each nine-week course that included 60 flight hours. The school’s Engine Division used assembly line tactics to train for overhaul. There was also an Instrument Department to instruct students to build and repair all varieties of aviation instrumentation.

The seaplane base continued operations during the war as an all-female division. Adjustments were made as necessary and resources were allocated where needed to maintain a flexible and efficient machine. The contributions of Embry-Riddle, providing pilots, mechanics, and technicians to the allied war effort, was undeniable and without precedent.

Embry-Riddle Approved to Educate Veterans Under G.I. Bill


Embry-Riddle in Brazil History

As was true for so many of the companies involved in the military-industrial complex, post-war Embry-Riddle realigned to define its new role. It became one of the first institutions approved to educate veterans under the new
Government Issued Bill, commonly known as the G.I. Bill.

In 1944, John Paul Riddle set his sights on the burgeoning aviation industry in Brazil. A partnership that involved the Brazilian Air Ministry and Embry-Riddle was established in São Paulo. Within three years, under his leadership with 650 North American instructors, he turned it over to the Brazilian government having graduated 3,500 students.

Back in Miami, John McKay was focused on civil aviation. He reorganized and moved flight operations to Opa-Locka Airport. Space remained an issue, as the divisions were located miles apart. During the war in Korea, Embry-Riddle was contracted to train mechanics and technicians for the new U.S. Air Force.

International Students Burnish Embry-Riddle’s Reputation

In 1951, McKay died unexpectedly and his widow assumed the presidency. By now, the school was named Embry-Riddle International School of Aviation and it was living up to the moniker.

Its reputation was expanding globally as students from Europe, the Middle East, South and Central America, the Caribbean, and the Far East returned to their countries to extol their Embry-Riddle education and launch their aviation careers.

Under Isabel McKay, the school reorganized as a non-profit entity and was renamed Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Institute (ERAI). The non-profit status was a pragmatic move enabling the Board to accept philanthropic gifts in addition to the students’ tuition to help sustain programs and support growth. 

Aviation Legend Jack Hunt Becomes Embry-Riddle President

A major turning point for the institute came in 1963 when a former Navy Commander, with a notable aviation record of his own, was named President. Jack Hunt was a legend who had been awarded a trophy in 1958 by President Eisenhower for piloting the longest non-stop, non-refueled trans-Atlantic flight in an airship. Like founder John Paul Riddle, Hunt was handsome, charismatic, and a true
visionary. From the beginning of his tenure, he began laying the foundation to
bolster enrollment, establish a centralized campus, foment ties with industry, and earn academic accreditation – the last goal not likely given the technical nature of the institute.

Not long after assuming his role, he was informed that the base of flight operations, the Tamiami Airport in Florida, would soon close. He saw this not as a setback but as an opportunity to build a cohesive campus to support all the divisions, something he identified as necessary to gain accreditation.

An exhaustive list of possible locations ended with the Ormond Beach Airport, about 260 miles north of Miami, Florida, on the Atlantic coast. There was a hurdle, however. Beyond the airfield, there were no facilities to establish the campus. Neighboring
Daytona Beach offered a temporary solution. On the airport property, there were vacant World War II era barracks,
classrooms, and offices that had been training facilities for the Army and Navy.

“Operation Bootstrap” Moves Embry-Riddle to Daytona Beach

Over a weekend in April 1965, everything the institute owned was either trucked or flown to Daytona Beach in
“Operation Bootstrap.” Community volunteers manned 31 borrowed trucks to make a ragtag convoy. Even a hangar was dismantled, trucked, and reassembled. Twenty aircraft completed the one-way flight and within a very short time,
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Institute welcomed the next wave of future aviation professionals.

It only took a few short weeks for Jack Hunt and the Board to fully appreciate the financial commitment and effort the civic leaders and citizens of Daytona Beach had invested in Embry-Riddle. Genuinely grateful and touched by the generosity they witnessed, they opted to remain in Daytona Beach and to develop a campus befitting their vision.

Embry-Riddle Earns Accreditation, Gains University Status 

That elusive accreditation was awarded in 1968, and university status was granted. In 1970, the name changed to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – which is now recognized worldwide as the unrivaled pinnacle in aviation and aerospace education.

The cohesive campus that Jack Hunt envisioned for a thousand students began to take shape in those first few years. The college community he imagined started to evolve. Athletics returned, dormitories and academic buildings were constructed, and student organizations were founded.

Prescott Campus and Worldwide Campus Established 

Earlier than most, founders Embry and Riddle recognized the importance of aviation and started a culture that focused on identifying opportunities for the future and demonstrating the confidence to persevere. One such opportunity included providing education to military personnel on their bases. The first remote location was established in 1970 at Fort Rucker, Alabama. This began what is today the Worldwide Campus – operating in more than 135 locations around the
globe, delivering award-winning online education, growing Embry-Riddle Asia in Singapore and India, and launching a new partnership in Brazil.

The residential campus in Prescott, Arizona , opened in 1978 with 268 students in Aeronautical Science. Today, with more than 2,700 students and home to the nation’s only College of Security and Intelligence, it has gained prominence and distinction in its own right.

Degree Offerings Constantly Expanding to Meet Industry Needs

Offering more than 100 associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs, enrolling over 34,000 students annually, and with greater than 130,000 alumni, Embry-Riddle is a storied entrepreneurial endeavor whose future is more promising than ever.

So, what opportunities being examined today will become the next chapters in the Embry-Riddle story and history of aviation? Radical designs for unmanned aerial vehicles occupy the list with other exciting developments in hybrid aircraft, exotic propulsion systems, safety innovations, clean air technologies, the NextGen Air Transportation System, advancements in the business of aviation, and countless projects that exist in the imaginations of tomorrow’s students. Like those who conceived that our written word could be delivered instantly and wirelessly, some young minds are focused on the dematerialization of objects and humans to bring the teleporter to reality. When yet-to-be-imagined challenges arise, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University will reach into its history and draw upon its place in the industry to provide leadership, facilities, and creative thought to achieve the extraordinary.

Supporting Embry-Riddle’s enhanced success in the research field is the new John Mica Engineering & Aerospace Innovation Complex (MicaPlex) located in the Embry-Riddle Research Park near the Daytona Beach, Florida, campus . The MicaPlex houses multidisciplinary research labs and a high-performance computer facility, supporting research in engineering, space, radar, robotics, advanced materials, smart structures, clean energy systems, and more. With signature labs like the Robotics & Autonomous Systems Facility and the Advanced Dynamics & Control Center, the 50,000-square-foot-building also houses a large-scale subsonic wind tunnel superior to any other similar technology in the Southeast. At the MicaPlex, faculty and students collaborate with existing businesses and entrepreneurs from early research to the marketplace, propelling the next wave of industry innovation. These collaborations foster new patents, successful business ventures and knowledge discovery.

The university’s sixth president, P. Barry Butler, Ph.D., is leading Embry-Riddle into a new era. Prior to his arrival in March 2017, he was executive vice president and provost at the University of Iowa, where he was responsible for more than 100 academic programs. Earlier positions held at Iowa include professor of mechanical engineering and associate dean for academic programs. Under his leadership as dean, University of Iowa’s College of Engineering experienced progress in areas that have been identified as priorities for Embry-Riddle: record growth in undergraduate enrollment, external research funding, faculty development, programmatic initiatives, facility improvements, and student scholarships.

At Embry-Riddle, Dr. Butler plans to build on the university’s outstanding global reputation and further promote excellence in science, engineering, and education.

To learn more about Embry-Riddle’s history, visit the University Archives .

Additional Resources

50 Years in Daytona Beach |
Aviation History Resources |
Celebrating 90 Years |
History is Made Every Day |
University Archives


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Embry-Riddle Becomes First School to Receive Comprehensive Certification for Unmanned Flight Instruction

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University on Nov. 1 became the first academic institution to receive the Trusted Operator Program certification from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).

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Embry-Riddle Graduate Student Motivates Fellow Veterans

U.S. Army veteran overcomes deployment and helps new student veterans adjust to college life
Standing in front of fellow veterans, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University graduate student Amanda Meurer gives these first-year students study tips and other skills on being successful.
By her side is Mako, a golden retriever service dog who helps the U.S. Army veteran with anxiety and her diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder. Mako has been with Meurer since this summer through the K9s For Warriors program. He is able to sense when she’s anxious and signals her to pet him which soothes her anxiety. Mako is also trained to help her with mobility.
“In the military when you have a friend with you it is called a battle buddy. Now, I have a battle buddy that just happens to be a dog,” she said.

Read more

Embry-Riddle Renames College of Business to Honor Family of Philanthropist David B. O’Maley

Significant Gift to Further Elevate Embry-Riddle Business Programs and Inspire Future Leaders
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the global leader in aviation and aerospace education, today announced plans to rename its Florida-based College of Business to honor the family of Trustee, philanthropist and former insurance industry executive David B. O’Maley.
With a generous gift from David and Karen O’Maley, Embry-Riddle expects to elevate its College of Business – already widely regarded as offering the best aviation business administration program in the world – to even greater heights, said University President P. Barry Butler.

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Embry-Riddle Program Gives Brazilian Airline Employees a Career Boost

Among the latest graduates of Embry-Riddle Central & South America’s Aviation Management Program, some are already reaping the benefits of their course participation, with at least three students promoted in their jobs while taking classes, and three stepping into jobs in other countries.

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U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao and Gov. Rick Scott Help Embry-Riddle Dedicate Newly Named Mori Hosseini Student Union

The Hon. Elaine L. Chao, 18th U.S. Secretary of Transportation and Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Oct. 25 helped dedicate Embry-Riddle’s transformational new Student Union – now renamed to honor alumnus and Board of Trustees Chairman Mori Hosseini.

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Embry-Riddle Selected for National EcoCAR Challenge

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is one of 12 North American universities tasked with re-engineering a 2019 Chevrolet Blazer into a connected and automated hybrid vehicle as part of the new four-year EcoCAR Mobility Challenge.
EcoCAR is a collegiate automotive engineering competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), General Motors (GM) and MathWorks, and managed by Argonne National Laboratory.  Aimed at developing a highly skilled workforce and the next generation of automotive innovators, students gain hands-on experience, teamwork and leadership skills by designing and building next-generation mobility solutions to meet the nation’s future energy and mobility challenges.

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Explore  Your Options

Decide where and how you’ll change the world

Our residential campuses located in
Daytona Beach, Florida and
Prescott, Arizona offer you the choice of a spectacular beach setting or an amazing mountain community.
Embry-Riddle Online and our
Worldwide Campus operate a globally recognized learning system that leverages online and face-to-face instruction and a network of education facilities designed to support student advancement in the U.S. and abroad.

Daytona Beach, FL

The
Daytona Beach campus is located adjacent to an
international airport, a few miles from the beach, and a short drive to
Orlando and
Kennedy Space Center.
+

Prescott, AZ

The
Prescott campus is located in the Bradshaw Mountains of Arizona, a short drive to the
Grand Canyon and the red rocks of Sedona, and a day trip to
Phoenix or
Las Vegas.
+

Satellite
Satellite

Worldwide/Online Campus

Embry-Riddle
Online and 
Worldwide offers
online learning and has non-residential campuses in
35 U.S. states and
nine countries around the world.
+

Set a
Course  for Success

Turn your passion into a profession with an
Embry-Riddle education

Whether you’re interested in
applied science ,
aviation ,
business ,
computers & technology ,
engineering ,
security, intelligence, and safety , or
space , Embry-Riddle has a major for you.

We respond to the changing world around us and our trailblazing degrees let you lead the way.

Choose Your Degree

#1

  • First and only undergraduate
    Space Physics program in the nation
  • First
    College of Security and Intelligence program in the nation
  • First
    Spaceflight Operations program in the nation
  • First
    Unmanned and Autonomous Systems Engineering program in the nation
  • First and only undergraduate
    Aerospace Physiology degree in the nation

Learn, then Earn

You expect results.
We deliver them.

 

Embry-Riddle graduates get where they want to be, landing jobs quickly and becoming leaders of industry. Your degree will get you in the door at some of the world’s top employers, and the people you meet on campus will be there to help you along the way.

 

of Embry-Riddle graduates are
employed or are in
graduate school within a year of graduation.

Ethan Haddy,
Security & Intelligence

It’s amazing the way the Eagle Operations Center is set up. It looks like something out of the movies. You wouldn’t expect to see it on a typical college campus. There’s a round table with all the TV monitors and a giant touch table.

Terry Hamm,
Aeronautical Science

I am so thankful to have found a university that understands that soldiers have a job to do—a university that works with us to help us get our education.

Ashley Ross,
Aerospace Engineering

I worked at NASA Ames Research Center on wind tunnel testing for Black Hawk Helicopters. I also helped work on the design for a B22. I got to fly the world’s first vertical motion simulator-the simulator they use to help train astronauts how to fly the shuttle-and I got paid for all of it.

Bonny Simi,
JetBlue

The quality of the students that we see coming out of ERAU is very high, thus when we interview students from the school, we tend to have a higher success rate than we do with many other schools. In fact almost 25% of our pilots have attended ERAU.

Go
Sky-High

Your classrooms: The lab, the cockpit, the simulator

At Embry-Riddle, you’ll get
hands-on experience from the time you get to campus. Explore the skies. Develop a rocket launch system. Run conflict scenarios in a situation room. Design airlines, networks and fleets to maximize profitability.

Airplane
Airplane
Airplane

16

Consecutive years the

Daytona Beach undergraduate Aerospace Engineering program has been ranked
No. 1 nationally among schools where a master’s is the highest degree
90

Instructional
aircraft in our combined Daytona Beach and Prescott fleet
46

Flight simulators
5

Straight years in
top five for online bachelor’s programs (U.S. News & World Report)
11

National Titles the Prescott
flight team has won

 

0


hours

ERAU Aeronautical Science graduates need 500 fewer flight hours to apply for first officer status compared to non-graduates (1,500 hours).

Establish Lifelong
Connections

Classmates today and industry leaders tomorrow

Though Embry-Riddle students come from all
50 states and
141 countries around the world,  there is one trait they all share;
a determination to succeed. The bonds our students develop in the classrooms and residence halls last a lifetime and our
Alumni Association works to connect alumni with one another and with
hundreds of employers around the globe.

 
 
over
130,000

in our
alumni
network

over
100

Companies,
that recruit at Embry-Riddle’s annual Career Expos

7

Alumni who
are current or former
astronauts

40

inches

diameter of
the mirror on the
Daytona Beach Campus’ telescope, the biggest
among universities
in Florida

over
250

Clubs, organizations, fraternities and sororities, intramural and sports teams

over
135

Locations
offering courses through our Worldwide
Campus

Reach New
Heights

Be a part of Embry-Riddle’s unparalleled tradition

As the world’s largest and most
respected university specializing in
aviation and aerospace, Embry-Riddle has been at the forefront of
ground-breaking aeronautical milestones since the early days of flight. With over 130,000 graduates around the
globe, Embry-Riddle is not only
leading the future, it is
changing it.

Visit the University Archives to view official historical records

Visit our Newsroom to read more about our prestigious past and what sets us apart

The Embry-Riddle Company is founded by T. Higbee Embry and John Paul Riddle at Cincinnati’s Lunken Airport on Dec. 17 – exactly 22 years to the day after the Wright brothers’ famed flight at Kitty Hawk.

The Embry-Riddle Flying School, which opened in spring 1926, gains attention in 1927 when the school trains student Frank Shelton to fly solo in only 5 hours, 34 minutes – believed to be the shortest amount of time at that point.

Cincinnati becomes one of the nation’s first cities with direct Airmail service. The Embry-Riddle Company wins the contract because it had “gained a name for itself through the industry, the quality of its flying school, and the high tone of operations at Lunken Airport,” according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

After thorough examination by the Aeronautics Branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Embry-Riddle’s Flying School becomes one of the first five schools in the country to receive an “Approved School Certificate” under the Air Commerce Act.

The U.S. government selects the now
Miami-based Embry-Riddle Company to train pilots for the U.S. Army Air Corps, the predecessor to the U.S. Air Force. By the height of WWII, Embry-Riddle is the largest privately operated flight school in the world.

In the post-war years, the Riddle Aeronautical Institute continues to train pilots but struggles financially until the early 1960s, when increased demand for aviators causes the school to outgrow its Miami facilities.

The Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Institute, established as a non-profit corporation in 1959, moves from Miami to Daytona Beach, FL, in 1965, in what the school calls “Operation Bootstrap.”

Embry-Riddle achieves university status in 1970 and becomes Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. That same year, the first residence center is established in Fort Rucker, AL, the beginning of Embry-Riddle’s Worldwide Campus. Later in the decade, the university opens a residential campus in Prescott, AZ.

With residential campuses now in Daytona Beach, FL, and Prescott, AZ, tens of thousands of online students, and 135+ Worldwide locations around the world, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University continues to train the world’s best pilots, plus some of the best engineers, mechanics, air traffic controllers, meteorologists, and many others.



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