Meridian Regional Airport donates aircraft to Hinds CC

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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - The Meridian Regional Airport is turning an accident into good fortune for a college after an aircraft was damaged on the runway.

In October 2016, a 1978 Cessna 152 airplane was severely damaged. A helicopter flew over it, flipping it upside down. The airport managed to save radios and a few other parts, but had no idea how they could salvage the plane. That's when Airport President Tom Williams thought of an innovative idea.

"After we settled with the insurance company, there was very little value left. But we realized the opportunity to donate it to the Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic School at Hinds Community College," said Williams.

The airplane will be used as a training opportunity for Hinds' Aircraft Maintenance Technology Program. Mechanics broke down the plane as they prepared to transport the parts to the Raymond campus.

"You can only learn so much from a textbook," said Maintenance Technology Instructor W.P. Marsh.

It will supply a hands-on learning experience for future aircraft mechanics.

"It's one thing to read something and try to visualize it in a textbook. But until you put your hands on the equipment and go through the processes, and maybe make some mistakes and learn how to recover from that, you're not going to internalize the lessons that we're teaching," said Marsh.

Marsh calls the advantage a valuable training tool.

"Putting control surfaces back on, rigging them correctly, doing sheet metal repairs, doing wiring, avionic installations," said Marsh.

It's considered a win-win for Hinds and Meridian.

"It's a real opportunity to play a part in the training of the people we're probably going to hire one day. We're looking for several airplane mechanics right now. This is the sort of thing that's continuing to get people into those programs. And to grow more mechanics and train them is important for aviation nationwide but especially in Mississippi and in Meridian," said Williams.

Meridian Aviation rented out the Cessna 152 to aspiring pilots for 35 years. The plane’s engine was replaced seven times and it was flown for more than 13,000 hours by those taking their first flight.