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Dave and Charlene Ernst Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Aerospace Engineering


Dave Ernst credits his early career success to the extraordinary education he received at The University of Texas at Austin, which he believes set him apart from other young engineers in his field. “My courses at UT were more in-depth and hands-on than the education that my colleagues had received,” Ernst said. “As I worked my way up and eventually had employees reporting to me, I realized that UT graduates were better prepared than almost any in the country.”

In order to provide this life-changing experience to future students, Ernst and his wife, Charlene, have established the Dave and Charlene Ernst Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Aerospace Engineering.

After graduating from UT, Ernst was hired by the Stress Analysis Group at General Dynamics in Fort Worth to work on the initial design of the F-111 swing wing fighter before spending nine years working on the analysis and testing of the airframe. In 1972, he served as an analyst during the early stages of the Lightweight Fighter Program that became the YF-16 prototype, ultimately devoting the next 26 years to working on all phases of the analysis, testing and manufacturing of the F-16 fighter. When he retired in 1999, he had become the senior lead engineer in the F-16 Stress Analysis Group, which made him responsible for the structural integrity of the entire F-16 airframe.

Ernst is proud to say that he was part of the most successful jet fighter program in history. “I have been fascinated with airplanes my entire life,” he said. “When I was in high school during the Korean War, I expected to graduate and become a fighter pilot in the F-86 Sabrejet, which I thought was the coolest airplane I had ever seen. When I discovered that the Air Force didn’t take fighter pilots with poor eyesight, I decided that I would design the planes instead. I can truly say that I am one of the fortunate few who have been able to do exactly what they hoped to do with their life.”

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