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Aviation safety lab would make its namesake proud

Annette Klosterman Aviation Safety and Data Analytics Lab honors both aviation safety and one of UND’s most remarkable graduates

Annette Klosterman’s dedication and spirit are the inspirations for the Annette Klosterman Aviation Safety and Data Analytics Lab, which UND recently named and dedicated in Klosterman’s honor. Photo montage by Heather Schuler/UND.

Sitting in the classroom are two rows of computer stations, plus a whiteboard on the front wall. And that’s it.

So why did the president of UND, the dean of the University’s Aerospace School, executives from General Electric and Delta Air Lines, commercial pilots and fully a hundred other people — many more than even could fit in the room — gather in April to dedicate the space?

The answer is that despite its being one of the most ordinary-looking classrooms on campus, the Annette Klosterman Aviation Safety and Data Analytics Lab tells one of UND’s most extraordinary stories. Make that two extraordinary stories; as we said, it’s a remarkable room.

The first story relates to the Aviation Safety and Data Analytics portion of the classroom’s name. But don’t be scared by that jargon-y label, as understanding the lab’s function is as easy as settling in for a smooth flight.

The second story is all about the personal part of the lab’s handle: Annette Klosterman, in whose honor the lab in Odegard Hall has been named. You see, Annette … well, let’s tell the classroom’s Data Analytics story first. Then we’ll learn more about Annette and her remarkable life and family.

The Annette Klosterman Aviation Safety and Data Analytics Lab features state-of-the-art technology that lets UND students solve real-world flight safety problems. Photo by Tom Dennis/UND Today.

From instant cameras to hi-def

To understand the power of data analytics in aviation safety, think of a snapshot from a vintage Polaroid camera, said Andrew Coleman, a guest at the dedication and the general manager of aviation software for GE Digital.

“When you look at that picture, it tells you a story,” Coleman said. “Just not a very good story, because of the limitations of that technology.

“Now think of the first time you saw a movie in high-definition. You could see every dimple on a golf ball, every blade of grass.

“Well, that’s what we’re doing now with flight data,” he said.

And that’s what the new computer lab is all about.

The lab’s computers may look ordinary, but thanks in part to GE Digital technology, they’re portals to industry-leading flight-safety software, said Robert Kraus, dean of the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences at UND.

The software is so sophisticated that as part of their Aviation Safety & Operations coursework, UND students are using Delta Air Lines data to answer real-world flight safety questions.

“Safety has always been important in aviation,” Kraus said. “But what we’ve added is a whole new level of information. So today, rather than saying, ‘We think this is what happens,’ we can actually measure what happens in the course of a flight and detect trends that can advance flight safety.”

UND President Andrew Armacost was among those addressing the crowd at the dedication of the new Annette Klosterman Aviation Safety and Data Analytics Lab at UND. Photo by Tom Dennis/UND Today.

Interpreting the data stream

Moreover, the proliferation of sensors on aircraft has turned the information stream from a trickle into a torrent, Coleman said.

Where were the throttles at every point in time? Were the flaps extended, and to what degree? What was the aircraft’s altitude, pitch and speed?

Those are just a few of the countless data points that get recorded, and that together make up the massive info stream, Coleman said. That’s the stream the UND students in the data analytics lab use to both understand the past and predict the future.

By the way, the data streams that flow onto the lab’s computer screens don’t all stem from industry partners such as Delta. UND’s own aircraft also benefit from the high-definition scrutiny, said Brian Willis, director of safety and flight operations at the University.

“Think about the red ‘check engine’ light in your car,” Willis said. “We have a system now in which when one of our aircraft lands on a ramp, its data gets transmitted wirelessly to our flight data analysts.” That data then gets sifted to identify patterns of engine performance, airframe performance, pilot performance and many other elements of safe flight.

Jim Klosterman, standing next to his wife, Jan, gets ready to cut the ribbon being held by UND President Andrew Armacost (left) and Robert Kraus, dean of the Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, to dedicate the new Annette Klosterman Aviation Safety and Data Analytics Lab. The new lab in Odegard Hall is named in honor of the Klostermans’ daughter, Annette. Photo by Tom Dennis/UND Today.

A history of risk reduction

At UND, a milestone in collecting and analyzing this data came in 2007, when the University opened its first Aviation Safety and Data Analytics Lab. Since then, the lab’s sophistication has steadily increased, culminating in April’s dedication of the updated and centralized Annette Klosterman lab.

And as a result, UND now collects and analyzes data on not only manned but also unmanned-aircraft flights, said Ryan Guthridge, assistant professor of aviation and one of the team teachers of Aviation 412: Aviation Safety Analysis.

The University was one of the first in the country to have a formal, FAA-recognized Safety Management System, a risk-reduction program that makes special use of data analysis. And the Odegard School routinely gets calls from global as well as national operators, who’ve heard about the school’s data analysis work and ask, “How can we be a part of this?”

“I was fortunate enough to have a student — a brand-new sophomore — in one of my entry-level classes,” Guthridge said.

“She put in a grant proposal to use flight data to improve our fuel efficiency. We fly 10,000 to 13,000 hours a month. She’s wondering, ‘Can we be better users of fuel?’ ”

Think about it: Using UND’s flight data, a sophomore in an entry-level class can ask and likely answer that very complicated logistics question. No wonder some of the world’s biggest carriers are recognizing the data’s power to improve safety, Guthridge said.

Likewise, no wonder students in the Annette Klosterman lab often find themselves working past their class-dismissal times, said John Dulski, a junior in the Aviation Safety & Operations program.

“It’s one of the very few classes where I’ll look up at the time and think, ‘Holy cow. We were supposed to be finished 10 minutes ago,’ ” he said.

“But this is one of those classes where we’re not just sitting in a lecture hall. We’re actually working together and solving real-world problems, and that’s just the coolest thing.”

This plaque next to the Annette Klosterman Aviation Safety and Data Analytics Lab tells Annette’s story. Click on the image for a higher-definition version. Photo by Tom Dennis/UND Today.

Remembering Annette Klosterman

Like Amelia Earhart, Annette Klosterman was an aviation pioneer. She was a UND Aerospace standout who graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2007, intent on joining the still-tiny ranks of female commercial pilots.

Like Amelia Earhart, Annette Klosterman died in an aviation tragedy. In October 2007, on the return leg of a night flight from St. Paul, Minn., Klosterman — then a UND flight instructor — and Adam Ostapenko, a student, were killed when their plane collided with a flock of geese.

And like Amelia Earhart, Klosterman continues to inspire. That’s true because of not only the joy and determination with which she lived, but also the way her family and UND have cooperated to keep her memory alive.

You see, Annette simply loved flying, and she loved UND, said both Jim and Jan Klosterman, Annette’s parents and the guests of honor at the Annette Klosterman Aviation Safety and Data Analytics Lab dedication.

In fact, said Jim Klosterman, Annette’s time at UND may have been “the happiest four years of her life.”

That’s why in 2007, the Klostermans decided to honor Annette’s life at the University. The Annette L. Klosterman Memorial Aviation Scholarship has been helping female students pursue aviation careers ever since.

A heartfelt endowment

“Annette’s experience with UND was so positive that we felt compelled to do something to honor her,” Jim Klosterman said last month at the dedication.

“And so, literally within days of her accident, we established the endowment that funds the annual scholarship.”

Each year, the Odegard School selects a female student pursuing a UND commercial aviation degree to receive the scholarship. Qualified recipients must be a sophomore, junior or senior and exemplify the passion and determination shown by Annette in her career and aspirations.

The Klostermans have met all 16 of the students who’ve been named Klosterman Scholars and keep in close touch with most of them. That has resulted in the couple’s being invited to the weddings of several scholars, and they’ve attended whenever possible, Jim said.

“Those relationships are priceless,” he said.

“We literally consider those young ladies to be family; we refer to them as our ‘adopted flight daughters.’ We always encourage them to let us know when they’re in Spokane, (Wash.) where we live; we’ll often go out to the airport to see them. And a lot of their parents have become friends of ours, too.”

Klosterman paused. “From a parent level, what’s really been incredible for Jan and me is the fact that this is a productive outlet for our grief,” he said.

“If a parent loses a child, they like to keep the child’s name going. And our ongoing relationship with UND, through these scholarships, has helped that to happen.”

The Klostermans also have made regular contributions to the Women in Aviation chapter at UND. Over the past decade, more than 300 members of the chapter have attended the organization’s national conference, thanks to the generosity of Jim and Jan Klosterman.

Moreover, the couple proudly has remembered the University in their wills, Jim said.

“You know, my wife and I have no affinity or relationship with either of our two alma maters out in Washington state,” Jim said. “It’s all UND. They’ve blessed us, and we hope that we can return the blessing.

“And by no stretch of the imagination do I think our endowment is the largest at UND,” he continued. “But I like to believe that it’s as heartfelt as any other endowment or scholarship on campus.”

Jim and Jan Klosterman address a crowd of more than 100 at the dedication of the Annette Klosterman Aviation Safety and Data Analytics Lab, the state-of-the-art UND facility named in honor of their daughter. Photo by Tom Dennis/UND Today.

On sacred ground

More than 100 people attended the Aerospace School luncheon that preceded the safety lab’s dedication in April. Several in the audience dabbed at their eyes as various speakers, including Jim and Jan Klosterman, rose to honor and remember Annette, as well as to celebrate the safety lab’s opening.

President Armacost spoke, as did Dean Kraus and Beth Bjerke, associate dean of the Aerospace School. And from his perspective as general manager of aviation software for GE Digital, Andrew Coleman had this to say:

“I grew up in Dayton, Ohio,” Coleman noted. “And if you know anything about Dayton, Ohio, you know there are a couple of brothers from there — the Wright Brothers — who did a lot for our industry.

“And you can’t go hardly anywhere in Dayton without hearing a story about, ‘This is sacred ground, because Orville did this here, or Wilbur did that here.’ It’s pretty cool.”

Which brings us to the Annette Klosterman Aviation Safety and Data Analytics Lab, with its safety-enhancing technology, as well as its extraordinary namesake whose life and family imbues the lab’s work with such poignance and power.

“I like to think I’m standing on sacred ground here today,” Coleman said.

“I think there are going to be a lot of stories about what happens to save lives, right here.

“In fact, it’s already happening. I think we’re just at the beginning.”