SOWELA receives $35 million aircraft donation

Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 5:48 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - SOWELA Technical Community College will now be the home of a 35-million-dollar jet.

It comes from the Air Force as a donation for the students in their aviation maintenance program.

The E-8A JSTAR aircraft took its last flight during a special fly-in ceremony for the SOWELA aviation maintenance program.

“This has been an entire process of probably over a year, almost a year and a half of seeking the plane out and then going through the necessary approval processes till we finally get to this day,” Chancellor of SOWELA, Neil Aspinwall said. “The plane was flown from Fort Benning Georgia, Fort Benning air force base to Chennault, after some training and after some refinishing it will become part of our SOWELA ANP aviation program.”

Robert Null, Dean of Transportation and Applied Technology, said anything on the jet can break, from the skin of the aircraft to the hydraulic systems that operate the brakes, and students will learn how to fix it all.

“We are going to utilize it in our curriculum, many of our instructors are already working on how we can incorporate the Boeing 707 into our aviation curriculum and that’ll be a priority for us going forward,” Null said.

Many students and faculty gathered to watch the jet land.

“It feels awesome cause I know we are the only school in the country that has had this opportunity, it was really amazing watching her fly in and do her little tricks and all that, I just feel grateful that I am in this program and able to see something like this,” SOWELA student Isabel Gonzales said.

The aircraft will provide a hands-on learning experience for students.

“We have turbine engines coming up soon and this is a perfect example of turbine engines, in terms of it is a very specialized platform, and we are really lucky to work on something like this, especially in school,” SOWELA student Jack Iguess said.

Null said many students will graduate and work in an industry with similar aircraft, so this jet donation will provide them with an opportunity many schools do not offer.

Next, the plane will be painted and its final destination will be on the SOWELA campus, near the aviation maintenance building.