Aeronautics School Gets FedEx Retired Jet

Students at the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics soon will be able to train with a donated Boeing 727-100 freighter from FedEx, which could improve their chances of future employment.

"This will help bridge the gap from working on smaller planes to bigger planes," said student Sean Meladia, 21.

Students have been working with smaller planes and corporate jets which seat about six people, said John Graham, president of the institute, where a ceremony accepting the FedEx freighter was held yesterday .

Corporate jets generally have a wingspan of 63 feet, according to a fractional, or shared, jet ownership Web site. The average wingspan of a 727 is more than 100 feet, said David Sutton, managing director of aircraft acquisition and sales at FedEx Express.

"Most people hired will be working on airliners like this," student Greg Konrir, 22, said.

The freighter will be used primarily to train aviation maintenance students how to fix and build jets. Students will be working with the plane's hydraulics and pneumatics, among other things, said Mr. Graham.

Work involving the plane will be integrated into the curriculum as much as possible and available to all students in many different majors, he said. Mr. Graham said students should be able to begin working on the jet as soon as next week.

Although it is possible for the plane to still fly, the institute had to sign papers stating the plane would never be airborne. The aircraft is no longer registered with the Federal Aviation Administration and is grounded for liability reasons, Mr. Sutton.

FedEx Express, headquartered in Memphis, Tenn., has been phasing out its roughly 40-year-old 727-100 freighters in favor of 727-200 freighters for the past five years, Mr. Sutton said. The company had accumulated about 100 planes, which became more expensive to maintain than what the new models cost.

FedEx has sold a few of the planes for scrap metal. Most have been donated to law enforcement agencies to train officers how to evacuate planes, and to schools and museums in the United States, Canada and overseas that display them.

"We wanted to give back to the aviation industry and train the next generation," Mr. Sutton said. He said FedEx has been donating about 10 freighters a year.

Schools and others seeking planes applied to FedEx's department of aircraft acquisition and sales. A committee of FedEx employees reviewed the applications, and decided who would receive the planes based on placement rates and the quality of curricula for schools, and the overall programs for museums and law enforcement agencies, Mr. Sutton said.

The plane the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics received is the next to last being donated, Mr. Sutton said. FedEx is donating the last plane to the Paris Space and Air Museum at Le Bourget Airport.