Air Force Academy donates jet engine to West High School's aircraft maintenance program

West High School has a new addition to its airplane hangar. (How many of you knew West even had an airplane hangar?) Yesterday, the U.S. Air Force Academy donated a jet engine to DPS's Aircraft Maintenance Program, which is offered through the Emily Griffith Technical College but taught at West.

The program is one of a few in the country that teaches high-school students to repair aircraft.

"You can show kids textbooks all you want, but having a physical jet engine there to show how the air stream works is a really big deal," says DPS spokeswoman Kristy Armstrong.

The prototype Continental J69 engine is cut in half, "allowing students to observe the air and fuel flow paths," according to DPS. For more than thirty years, it was housed at the Air Force Academy and used as a teaching tool for cadets. Now it will do the same at West.

"Our hope is that it will help inspire Denver Public School students to pursue a career in the areas of aviation-related science, technology, engineering and mathematics, to the greater benefit of our nation," Brigadier General Dana Born, dean of the faculty at the U.S. Air Force Academy, said at yesterday's unveiling ceremony, which was attended by DPS dignitaries, state lawmakers, FAA representatives and students in the program.

The program, which began in 1948, is free to all DPS high-school students -- not just those at West. Through a concurrent enrollment program with Emily Griffith, juniors and seniors can earn 26 college credit hours and 450 hours of aviation maintenance training by graduation. DPS reports that nine to twelve students typically enroll each semester. This semester, however, eighteen students are enrolled in the program.

"This is a really unique program for high-school kids and an opportunity to get hands-on training to see if they want to pursue this at the college level," Armstrong says.

More from our Education archives: "DPS: Should district push back first day of school to September to avoid the heat?"

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Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
Contact: Melanie Asmar