Aviation maintenance students to refurbish historic WWII aircraft for D-Day Memorial
A group of Liberty University Aviation Maintenance Technician Program students and faculty disassembled the historic Aeronca L-3 aircraft on display at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va., and transported it about 30 minutes away to the School of Aeronautics Wednesday evening.
Over the next few months, students will incorporate the World War II-era plane into their required lessons on fabric recovering, and also gain experience with painting, interior restoration, rigging control cables, and working on the landing gear and propellers.
“It will be a great service to the community,” said Jim Molloy, Dean of Liberty’s School of Aeronautics, “and the students will learn on an actual aircraft that has significance.”
The work is important to the memorial’s preparations for June 6 next summer, the 75th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy.
“In all likelihood, given the age of the World War II generation, this will be the last big gathering of these heroes,” explained Martin Leamy, the memorial’s director of facilities and risk management. “Getting the aircraft back in pristine condition is going to be another way of honoring them.”
A local aircraft mechanic, Rucker Tibbs, had taken care of the memorial’s L-3 — observation planes which commonly scouted areas ahead of attacks during WWII — for years before his death.
“We really appreciate the partnership we have with Liberty Aeronautics,” Leamy said. “They stepped up and took ownership of the upkeep of the aircraft. They are really stepping up this year.”
Ron Taylor, an aviation maintenance training instructor for Liberty’s School of Aeronautics, said that he had no problem getting student volunteers to help with the work on Wednesday.
“My students over the past few months have been constantly asking when we are going to start this project,” he said. “They want to be a part of it, to do their part to honor the sacrifice of those who were involved in the invasion.”
The project gives students an opportunity to showcase work that they would have to do anyway.
“This is a great opportunity for students to do this on an aircraft at a national memorial — this will be seen by thousands,” Taylor said.
Caleb Rich, a Liberty junior in the maintenance program, said he looks forward to driving from his nearby hometown of Roanoke, Va., to see his work on display in the future.
“We are able to work on an actual aircraft that people will see one day,” he said. “It is cool to be a part of the history in re-creating that, to make a lasting impact.”
Liberty’s Aviation Maintenance Technician Program can be completed in one year and offers complete training for FAA licensure. The program can also be taken as part of an Associate of Arts in Aviation Maintenance or Bachelor of Science in Aviation Maintenance Management. The airline industry will need to fill over 600,000 aviation maintenance technician positions in the next 20 years, according to a report by Boeing.