The Learning Jet

Last week I was privileged to attend the AirSpace Minnesota Hangar Raising at the St. Paul Downtown Airport, known to us locals as Holman Field, named after Minnesota Aviation (and Northwest Airlines) Legend Charles “Speed” Holman.

The purpose of the “Hangar Raising” was to showcase The Learning Jet, the primary project of Minnesota Association of Women in Aviation (MnAWA).


MnAWA’s wish list came true with what I consider a fairy tale donation of a Boeing 727-200 cargo jet to the project by Fed Ex. Named “Timothy” by Fed Ex employees, the B-727 was donated to the MN Association of Women in Aviation who own the jet and oversee the interior renovation and operation of the static STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) classroom.  St. Paul Public Schools will oversee the development of the curriculum.  With the help of a $100,000 Garrett Morgan Grant by the Federal DT Highway Administration to St. Paul Public Schools and partner MnAWA, the project is taking shape nicely under the guidance of Steve Hurvitz, Learning Jet Project Director, and managed by an all-volunteer Board of Directors.

“The Learning Jet is the first of its kind in the nation for engaging students in STEM subjects and activities by incorporating hands-on activities in the classroom, cultivating enthusiasm for learning, relating it to real life experiences, and fostering a long-term interest in continued learning in science, technology, engineering and math. . . .At present, according to the U.S. Department of Education, only 16% of American high school seniors are proficient in math and interested in STEM-related careers.”  MN Association of Women in Aviation.


Gail Diercks on the way to board and tour The Learning Jet.


Inside The Learning Jet


Learning Jet Project Director Steve Hurvitz (background, far right) Karen Jensen, Gail Diercks.


Karen Jensen trying out what she learned at the controls of the B-727-200.

Also showcased was a more traditional classroom, a replication of the innovative center from the renowned Museum of Flight in Seattle – complete with another donated aircraft, a Cirrus SR22 airplane donated by Cirrus CEO Dale Klapmeier.


Far left, Don Piccard; front: Gail Diercks, retired NWA F/A, NWA/Delta Cap’t. Karen Ruth, and Anne Kerr.

Minnesota aviation dignitaries in attendance included Jeff Hamiel from the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC); Andy Zarras, Delta Airlines; Seattle Museum of Flight Board Member and NWA/Delta Captain Anne Simpson; Don Piccard of the Ballooning Dynasty; Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame Founder Noel Allard.  It was pretty heady company and nice to see so many local movers and shakers “going boldly” on this project.

If you wish to contribute or volunteer for AirSpace Minnesota and/or The Learning Jet (MnAWA)  please go to the links at the beginning of this blog post.

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