Friday marks the last day of classes for DMPS high schools, but first thing Friday morning the Central Campus aviation technology and maintenance program took delivery of a rather large teaching tool for next year.
FedEx donated a retired Pratt & Whitney JT8D jet engine from their Boeing 727 fleet. Women in Aviation International solicited and sifted applications from museums, universities and other aeronautic organizations to decide who should get custody. DMPS won out, thanks to what amounts to a grant proposal written by aviation instructor Keith Boot, extolling the history and uniqueness of the Central Campus program for high school aviation students.
The JT8D made the 727 one of the noisiest commercial airliners during its heyday, kind of a hot rod of the skies when it was introduced into commercial airline service in the 1960s at a cost of a couple million dollars per.
Weighing in at more than 5,000 pounds, the precious cargo arrived late last night by truck, ironically, traveling from California at only 70 mph after propelling countless flights at almost the speed of sound. Sort of like a racehorse being put out to pasture.
This latest coup conjured memories of the program’s receipt of a donated Learjet in 2011. And the move from former headquarters at the Des Moines International Airport to a new hangar/lab/classroom facility on County Line Road in 2015.
The carrier who handled the delivery specializes in aviation equipment that can draw stares and inquiries from other motorists. The driver in charge of this load said he’s sometimes asked if he’s hauling nuclear weapons.
There’s an old caricature of absent-minded students daydreaming and assembling paper airplanes instead of paying attention in class. Luckily for local ones who might fit that description, there’s a rare opportunity to put their aerodynamic instincts to good purpose available to them. The Central Campus aviation program is thought to be one of only three in the country for high school students.
As Boot’s application pointed out, “Under the management of Des Moines Public Schools (DMPS) Central Campus High School, a model for urban education, our program provides a diverse group of students a tremendous opportunity to start their aviation and career aspirations.”
The rest of the essay he wrote was convincing enough that he had one more bit of paperwork to complete on Friday morning – signing off on the shipping manifest to officially take delivery of the lab rat next year’s students will get to dissect.
The program dates back to 1943, roughly coinciding with the dawn of the jet age. It’s still climbing, to an altitude of who knows? The sky appears to be the limit.