SFA unveils new airplanes for student training

The Piper training planes have special "FJ" letters on the tail which stand for "Flying Jacks"
The Piper training planes have special "FJ" letters on the tail which stand for "Flying Jacks"(all use)
Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 6:34 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 23, 2021 at 11:11 PM CDT
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NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - Representatives from the Stephen F. Austin Aviation Sciences Initiative gathered at the A.L Mangham Jr. Regional Airport tarmac in Nacogdoches to unveil brand new planes that will be used for hands-on training for students at the university. University officials also shared that approval was given from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for an associated major program.

“These two planes are the first two planes owned by HCH Corporation, which is our flight school partner,” said Judy A. Abbott, Dean of the Perkins College of Education. “They have stepped up to work with SFA to establish a degree, a bachelor’s degree in aviation sciences.”

The university hopes to have three to four more airplanes by next year, with more to come after that. Students in the program work to get their pilot licenses and can become flight instructors in their junior and senior years to pass on the knowledge to the next wave of students. The work comes from a combination of classroom study, simulator training, and flight practice in the new aircraft.

“You’re looking at the newer Piper,” said Program Director Jim Williams. “They just came out with it, it’s specifically designed for a training platform and it has all the new electronic flight instruments in it, it has a G3X I believe.”

The “FJ” on the tail number of the new planes stands for Flying Jacks, which could also be a fitting title for Chief Flight Instructor Jack Gainer. He works directly with the students, and will be the one testing them in the cockpit during training flights. His enthusiasm for aviation was on display at the unveiling, even for the youngest members of the audience from Hudson high school.

“Right now the future in aviation is so incredible with the commercial space opportunities opening up for them,” said Gainer. “They have no idea what is available to them. And when you talk to them about it, and you see their dreams start to open up, it’s just...I call it pay dirt.”

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