Future airplane mechanics at Everett Community College shouted their welcome at Paine Field on Thursday as pilots from FedEx Express landed a Boeing 727, which the cargo carrier is donating to the school's aviation program.
"I think it's going to be great to work on something that's fully operational," said Brian Colson, a student in EvCC's Aviation Maintenance Technician School at the airport.
For Colson, aviation runs in the family. Both his parents work at Boeing. They encouraged him to enroll at EvCC to get the training necessary to earn a Federal Aviation Administration Airframe and Powerplant license.
Colson and fellow student Brian Dutler will graduate from the program next summer. Dutler moved to the area from Illinois for school after researching EvCC's program. EvCC is one of 150 schools nationwide to train airframe and powerplant mechanics.
"We don't have any large aircraft like this," Dutler said. "It's going to be neat to work on."
The donated 727 will give Colson, Dutler and other EvCC students the chance to get experience with turbofan engines and advanced avionics and electronics, said David Bowen, director of the Aviation Maintenance Technician School.
"Washington needs to lead the way as the world's best training center," Bowen said.
FedEx retired the last Boeing 727 in its fleet last month. It's replacing 727s with 757 freighters and will receive the first of 50 767 cargo jets this year.
"The venerable 727 has certainly served as the backbone of the FedEx fleet," David Sutton, managing director of aircraft acquisition and sales for FedEx Express, told a crowd at Paine Field on Thursday.
FedEx received 300 requests for airplane donations from schools, museums and airport fire departments. The company makes such donations to help future mechanics get the hands-on training they'll need to be successful, he said.
The 727-200 is a passenger plane that was converted into a freighter and named Gabrielle, for the daughter of a FedEx carrier in Milwaukee. It was built by Boeing workers in Renton in January 1979.
Braniff Airways carried passengers in the jet for more than a decade before FedEx bought it.
"Until just last month, she has been faithfully hauling packages" since 1990, Sutton said.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee attended the ceremony to express his appreciation for FedEx's donation. The governor said the donated 727 gave him confidence that the state's aerospace future will be as bright as its past.
"We're going to build the next generation of airplanes because we're going to build the next generation of workers right here," Inslee said.