Aviation Maintenance Flying High After Trainers Turned Over

Article by: Richard Guerrero, Jr.

 It’s a new day and new mission for a pair of U.S. Navy aircraft that spent several decades on training missions over the skies of South Texas. Now in the hands of Del Mar College (DMC), the T-34C Turbomentors will serve as teaching tools for students enrolled in the Aviation Maintenance program in the College’s Department of Technology Education with the Business, Professional and Technology Education Division.

Recently, the Navy formally transferred ownership of the aircraft to the College as Rear Adm. William G. Sizemore II handed over logbooks to DMC President Dr. Mark Escamilla. The Rear Admiral is Chief of Naval Air Training located at Naval Air Station-Corpus Christi.

“The Navy’s generosity and vision will impact Del Mar College’s Aviation Maintenance and Avionics students as they expand their skills with hands-on instruction using the aircraft we’re accepting today,” said Dr. Escamilla during the ceremony. “We’re very excited about the new educational and workforce development opportunities these aircraft will provide to future workers and employers in the Texas Coastal Bend.” 

Rear Adm. Sizemore said the T-34C Turbomentor has been the Navy’s primary training aircraft since the late 1970s. Naval pilots flew the two planes more than 30,000 hours combined. 

“One of these airplanes was built in 1976; the other in 1983,” the Rear Admiral noted. “They’ve both performed admirably for the Navy and trained thousands of aviators for more than three decades. They’ve been workhorses for the Navy, and we’re pleased to be able to turn them over to Del Mar College.”

While the Navy has transferred ownership of end-of-service-life aircraft to other higher education institutions or museums in the past, this transfer marks the first time that Del Mar College has received aviation aircraft from the Navy. 

The Del Mar College Foundation, Inc. made the transfer possible by covering the $10,000 administrative cost to sign the planes over to DMC, which are noted to be worth about $2.3 million each. The Foundation also worked with Bay Ltd., a full-service construction, fabrication and maintenance contractor in Corpus Christi, to provide transportation support for the aircraft from Naval Air Station-Corpus Christi to the Corpus Christi International Airport. 

The College will house the aircraft and train students at Crescent Hangar, a facility that DMC received from the city. Currently, hangar renovations are underway, but once complete, will allow the Aviation Maintenance program to train an additional 60 students.

Acquisition of the T-34C Turbomentors is just the latest highlight in the short history of the College’s Aviation Maintenance program, which was first launched in 2001. Those highlights include:

• DMC’s Aviation Maintenance program has trained more than 1,000 students and produced nearly 350 graduates since beginning in 2001. 

• In 2006, the Federal Aviation Administration certified DMC as an Aviation Maintenance Technician School with FAA certification granted only five years after the program first began.

• The College received a $1.9 million grant from a Department of Labor initiative to train workers for local jobs in late 2006. The grant, which also provided scholarships through the South Texas Aviation Project, covered the cost of over $1.1 million in training equipment.

• The College has an articulation agreement with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide, Corpus Christi, to provide DMC Aviation Maintenance students the opportunity to complete bachelor’s degrees. 

• In 2011, the Corpus Christi City Council gave unanimous support for a nearly $1 million economic grant to renovate the unused Crescent Hangar at Corpus Christi International Airport into a training facility for the College’s Aviation Maintenance program. The expansion will create room for about 60 more students. 

David Headley, DMC Instructor of Aviation Maintenance, said that the arrival of the aircraft is a remarkable opportunity for the Aviation Maintenance and Avionics programs to provide crucial learning experiences for students. 

“The T-34C Turbomentors will allow Aviation Maintenance faculty to make available more hands-on training that will prepare our students for careers throughout the industry,” Headley noted. “These planes represent an opportunity for students to expand their skill sets as they work on turbine fuel systems, propeller control systems, on board oxygen and nitrogen systems, instrument, navigation and radio systems, flight control rigging, landing gear systems and other aircraft systems.” 

In the photo, Rear Adm. William G. Sizemore II (left), Chief of Naval Air Training, shakes hands with Del Mar College President Dr. Mark Escamilla after handing over logbooks for two T-34C Turbomentor aircraft during a formal transfer ceremony as Dr. Fernando Figueroa (right), DMC Provost and Vice President of Instruction and Student Services, looks on.

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