by Halle Johnson, Student Public Relations Writer
When Dr. Daryl Smith was 13, he took a trip to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado — a trip that would spark a new passion, new career and new mission.
In 2014, Dr. Smith, associate professor of management at Cedarville University, was struck with a business idea that became a passion project — combining his love of aviation, teaching and his faith into an educational platform.
Today, this project is known as Doctor Aviation, and it’s a webpage centered on online aviation education. The project officially took off in 2015.
Doctor Aviation provides 15 online lectures on different facets of aviation that are intended to spark interest in flight.
“I like to give a holistic view of aviation through the program,” said Smith. “The first section of each lecture includes a science lesson, like understanding jet engine thrust. The second portion is about famous aviators, like exploring the Wright brothers or Neil Armstrong. Then, the final section is either a famous airplane or aviation event.”
When starting Doctor Aviation, Smith had three main goals: expose users to the many career options available in the field of aviation, give background knowledge on science and history to those interested in pursuing careers in aviation and use the revenues from the site to introduce more people to the gospel.
“I love aviation history and science, but my primary goal in everything I do is to have a testimony for the gospel,” said Smith. “Outside of the cost of maintaining the website, all my profits go to young adult and college ministries. So many people are confused and hurting, and the gospel has the hope they are looking for.”
Smith was not always interested in aviation. Even after a visit to the Air Force Academy as a teenager, a career as a pilot was not on his radar. It was not until he received a seemingly random suggestion to apply for the Air Force Academy from his father’s boss in his junior year of high school that Smith began to think of pursuing a career as a pilot.
“I remembered how beautiful the campus was, and thought that flying airplanes would be fun,” said Smith. “One thing led to another and the next thing I knew I was entering the Air Force Academy.”
After graduating from the Air Force Academy, Smith was part of the Air Force for 24 years, stationed across the U.S. in Colorado, Texas, California, Washington and Ohio. Upon his retirement from the service in 2004, his plan of being a pilot for Delta Airlines was derailed by the shortage of commercial pilot jobs in the years following the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
“Without that upset in my plans, I may never have pursued a career in education,” said Smith. “I had recognized I had a love for teaching when I served as a professor at the Air Force Academy late in my Air Force career.”
Smith joined the business faculty at Mount St. Joseph University in 2007, and his passion for college students and education soared.
“The idea of starting a website would never have come about if not for that job,” said Smith. “It was a former graduate student I had kept in touch with that recommended that I read the book ’The $100 Startup.’ Prior to his suggestion, I had no interest in starting a business. A month after finishing the book I had this epiphany — vocationally. I had flown airplanes and taught college and loved them both. What would happen if I combined them into a business?”
In addition to the coursework, Smith also writes a blog that includes stories of historic aviation events and personal stories from his career in aviation.
“The most rewarding part of the business for me came from the blog,” said Smith. “I wrote about a crash that happened at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington, while I was stationed there — just stories and memories of the men I knew. One of the men who died in the crash had a 5-year-old daughter, and she recently wrote to me thanking me for the article. I never expected it, but it is nice to know that the website has impact.”
Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University is an accredited, Christ-centered, Baptist institution with an enrollment of 5,082 undergraduate, graduate and high school dual-enrolled students in more than 175 areas of study. Founded in 1887, Cedarville is recognized nationally for its authentic Christian community, rigorous academic programs, high graduation and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings, and high student engagement rankings. For more information about the University, visit www.cedarville.edu.