Central Aviation Students Get Look at Experimental Aircraft
It’s been an especially high-flying week out at the DMPS Aviation Technology Lab on the grounds of the Des Moines International Airport.
Tuesday night the program’s new facility was cleared for takeoff by the School Board, as they unanimously approved a $3.3 million construction bid.
Then on Wednesday the students in one of only three FAA certified high school aviation curricula nationwide were invited over for an up close look at a literally one-of-a-kind aircraft by their neighbors, the 132nd Fighter Wing of the Iowa Air National Guard.
The prototype of the Textron AirLand Scorpion, a commercially produced fighter attack jet, flew up from Wichita and hung out in a hangar while a crowd of students and airmen gave it the once over.
Prior to the hands-on inspection and photo opp the curious crowd gathered in a meeting room at the Guard’s HQ to get the lowdown on the Scorpion’s specs. That session started out like a pre-mission briefing but quickly morphed into what sounded like a sales pitch for a new model economy car at an auto show.
The Scorpion comes with a sticker price of only $20 million per plane and costs less than $3,000 per flight hour to operate. Military jet aircraft typically run in the $150M/$15K range. The manufacturers hope to make and sell fleets of Scorpions both here in America and to our allies around the world.
Students were suitably impressed and had plenty of questions:
- Why was it named Scorpion?
- Can it land on aircraft carriers?
- Why are the wings perpendicular to the fuselage?
They seemed satisfied with the answers they got, though nobody put down a deposit and ordered one. They did, however, take full advantage when they got the chance to snap photos, climb up for a look inside the cockpit and examine the innards of the engines.
East High seniors Zach Lemon and Justin Lyon are in their third year of the DMPS aviation program and both plan to stay in the field somehow post-high school.
“We’re already earning credits in the Aviation Mechanics Program at Indian Hills Community College,” said Lemon. “I’m planning to go on and finish my AMP certification at Indian Hills.”
“I think I might want to get more into the pilot area,” Lyon said with a swashbuckling glint in his eye. He’s keeping his options open, both military and college.
They agreed that the Scorpion was a welcome break in their routines.
“The planes we usually get to work on are older,” Lyon said. “This Scorpion is pretty cool.”
Richard McDonald is their instructor in the unique program which is part of the Career & Technical Institute at Central Campus. He was in the United States Air Force and served in the Gulf War. Later he was attached to the 132nd before retiring from the military altogether and getting into teaching.
“Our program has had a great relationship with the Iowa Guard going back many years,” McDonald said. “When the F-16s were still based here our students got to do internships with the Guard. When they invited us to come over and see the Scorpion I knew the students would love to get a look at it.”
After all, there’s only one – for now. The word EXPERIMENTAL is clearly tattooed on the Scorpion’s nose. How often do any students anywhere get a free crack at a $20 million experiment?