Ivy Tech Community College Northeast unveiled a Sabreliner corporate jet Friday that has been donated to the school’s aviation maintenance program, making the program the most sophisticated in the state and the only airframe and powerplant school in northeast Indiana.
The program is one of only three in Indiana.
The jet, unveiled in a reception for donors and others at the aviation school on Cook Road, is a 1968 model that carries eight passengers plus the crew, but those familiar with the plane compared it to a small airliner.
“The systems are similar to a commercial airliner,” said Mike Clouse, who is head of the program.
With the jet, aviation maintenance students will be able to train at levels that exceed industry standards, school officials said.
“It’s the biggest plane we’ve ever had,” said Oliver Barie, executive director of resource and development at Ivy Tech. “Most schools use textbooks or mockups” to train students. This gives students more hand-on experience and lets them study advanced avionics.
The school also has four other planes and several engines that are used to train students.
The donation has a total value of $100,000. Keith Moser of Huntington, who is an aviation enthusiast, donated the money to buy the plane, and several others donated money to mount new engines on the jet and fly it to Ivy Tech’s aviation school. The engines were later removed and shipped to Canada.
The plane, which was owned by Alan Aircraft Services in Huntington, was originally intended to go to an aviation school in Malaysia. But that fell through, making the plane available to Ivy Tech.
Students in the aviation maintenance program study pneumatic, hydraulic, electrical and other systems.
There are 91 students enrolled in the program. Since it was started in 2007, nearly 500 have received associate degrees in aircraft maintenance and many have received additional certifications.
The program, which lasts five semesters, has been called the best return on investment of any school in the state. Mike Clouse, head of the program, said graduates can earn $30,000 to $32,000 a year right out of school.
The hope, he says, is that graduates will go into aviation, but because of their skills, many go into the wind-energy field and railroads, and because of their familiarity with composite materials and aerodynamics, some have gone into IndyCar racing and NASCAR.
Clouse said the aviation industry does run in cycles. “We’re in the start of a new cycle. A lot of people in maintenance are retiring,” creating opportunities for students.
A study by Boeing predicts a 19 percent increase in demand for airframe and power mechanic positions over the next two decades.