AIM Houston students working on an airplane engine

Campus Connections: AIM Houston

Written By: AIM Houston Staff

Aviation Institute of Maintenance Houston campus was diligently and meticulously searching for the perfect plane to enhance our educational offerings while affording students additional capabilities to complete an array of projects. Many criteria needed to be met, with the most challenging being that the aircraft could safely fit in our hangar at the campus. We were avidly searching for an airworthy twin-engine aircraft with hydraulic landing gear.  Fortunately, one of our faculty members, Alex Costa, located a 1975 Piper Aztec in Pearland, Texas.  Mr. Buchanan, Director of Education, and Aaron Armendariz, Campus Executive Director, coordinated the purchase of the aircraft. 

This was where the fun began; how would we get the plane to the campus?  The easy method would have been to simply hire someone to move it for us. However, both Mr. Armendariz and Mr. Buchanan wanted to turn this challenge into a hands-on learning experience for AIM students. This project was one that few A&P mechanics would have the opportunity to undertake during their professional careers.

Mr. Buchanan presented this challenge to the AIM Houston faculty to see if they could handle this endeavor. The team enthusiastically volunteered to tackle and manage the project, which was led by instructors Fred Morris, Troy Thompson, Christian Longoria, Ryan Davidovich, and Mark Light.  Since it was determined that students would benefit from this real-world hands-on learning experience, invitations were sent to students to volunteer. The student volunteers participated on their own time, which involved both the weekend and week of spring break.

On Friday, April 2, 2021, the plane was ready to be transported. Both Lycoming TIO-540 SER engines were removed, as was the entire interior to facilitate the removal of both wings. Strict quality control processes were followed that documented and labeled each step of the disassembly. This allowed the plane to be transported via trailer to the campus where the team unloaded the plane and started the tedious process of putting it back together.

The students worked together to secure the aircraft’s major components in custom cradles that they manufactured.  The cradles were utilized to safely transport the aircraft to the campus with zero damage to the aircraft and no injuries to the team members.  In this effort, the students gained valuable hands-on experience and problem solving with aircraft systems, such as flight controls, hydraulic systems, landing gear, engine systems, electrical systems, and the main structure of the aircraft. 

AIM Houston wants to thank graduates Jocelyn Gonzalez, Bailey Penovich, Qian Sun, Mike Hutson, Martin Kong, and students David Abernathy, James Eagan, Ron Oestmann, Travis Troutman, Adam Vencil, and Robert Rodriguez Lopez for their time, effort, and dedication. On Thursday, April 15, 2021, these students and recent graduates were recognized and presented with letters of recommendation that outlined the critical experience they each gained by participating in this project.

AIM Houston graduates in an airplane hangar
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