Students at the St. Philip's College aviation technology program got a $7 million, 5,000-pound gift on Wednesday afternoon.
Like Christmas in April, it arrived on a very large sleigh and it was gift-wrapped in dusty black plastic. Southwest Airlines donated the large jet engine to help train future aviation technicians.
Aviation Instructor John Haral said that the exceptionally valuable donation was arranged by a former student of the program.
Haral said that Francisco Armstrong completed the program years ago, got further education and training, and rose through the ranks at the airline as a technical writer.
"He asked if we would like one of those and we said we'd love to have one, absolutely!" Haral recalled.
Haral noted that the CFM56 engine is about seven feet wide, seven-feet tall, and 12 feet long.
Students and instructors alike said that they appreciate the gift so much, it seemed like Thanksgiving as well.
“It is like Thanksgiving and it is the turkey, because once we're all in the class, once we start getting the ball rolling, it's all going to come apart and we're all going to put it back together,” student Katherine Talamantez said.
“I think we'll get a lot out of it. All new information, being able to be hands on and visually see it,” said Ruben Hasse, who added that the gift will benefit students for years to come.
David Campos said that he’s seen big engines on school field trips before, but having everyday access to a tool like this is a big advantage in the job market.
“Honestly, it's a really good opportunity because, most other classes, you see pictures. You see diagrams and all that stuff. But what's different with the program that we're in is that it's more hands-on, real-life scenarios,” said Campos who’s grateful he will be going into the workforce with an advantage. “Us? We already have all the experience to do this, so we have a step up against everyone else for our careers.”
Student Brianna Torres spoke with enthusiasm about her readiness to work with the engine.
“I totally want to disassemble that, and like reassemble it. Go through every component. Climb in it,” student Brianna Torres said.
The college is not wasting any time putting this gift to work. Summer school students will be the first to get their hands on it.