After returning from Mobile Zebra, Arnold found that the Air Force had accepted him to finish his degree, but like most things in the military, there was bad news along with the good. He had hoped to finish the degree at the University of Minnesota, but instead the Air Force had selected him to attend Texas A&M University in College Station. That wasn’t so bad, because College Station was only a short 3-hour move to the north, but the Air Force had also decided his major would be industrial engineering. Arnold had no idea what industrial engineering was, but it didn’t sound like it had anything to do with airplanes.
After doing some research, he found that industrial engineering involves optimizing manufacturing and repair processes. The Air Force had selected him for the program because of his background as a mechanic. He decided the degree would be okay – it was still a degree and maybe he could take some aeronautical engineering courses as electives.
The growing family moved to College Station in July 1958 – a pregnant-again Colleen, a toddler and an infant, a cat, and a Stinson 108, the family airplane. They found an apartment near the school, and Arnold began brushing the cobwebs off the differential equations, physics, and aerodynamics courses he had last taken eight years earlier. Fortunately, the Air Force program paid for two years of college, so he was essentially repeating his junior year.
He first had to figure out his class schedule, so he went to see his academic adviser, a military officer. When Arnold said he wanted to take some aeronautical engineering classes, the adviser said, “Take anything you want. Just take one industrial engineering class to make it look good.”
“You mean I can change my major?”
“Sure,” said the adviser, “but you will still be listed as a maintenance officer, not as an engineer. Are you okay with that?”
Of course. Engineer, pilot, mechanic – it was his dream come true.
Arnold’s new routine included classes during the week and flying on the weekends. To maintain his military proficiency and flight pay, on Saturdays he flew T-33s at Bergstrom AFB near Austin, about two hours north of College Station. On Sundays, he took the family flying in the Stinson.When his third daughter was born, he sold the Stinson and bought a Cessna 170. He had planned to buy a different airplane from a dealer in San Antonio, but when they arrived to look at the airplane, Colleen spotted the Cessna 170 and decided she had to have it instead. The photo below was actually taken in 1961.
Next week, I’ll start talking about the design of the E-1!