American Airlines recently donated two MD-80 aircraft — one to Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois, and a second to CareerTech in Oklahoma City — to help inspire and educate future aviation professionals, and the donation is already helping future maintenance technicians.

Amanda Colón sits on the flight deck of the MD-80 American donated to Lewis University. Image credit: American Airlines

Lewis University hosted a dedication ceremony for their new MD-80, which included students, elected officials and leaders from both American and Lewis. The MD-80 donation will help build future opportunities for students close to American’s Chicago hub.

“In Chicago, we have nearly 550 aviation maintenance technicians whose work allows our airplanes to fly safely each day, and I salute the professional work they do behind the scenes to take care of our customers,” said Franco Tedeschi, American Airlines Vice President – Chicago. “This donation means that we will uphold our commitment to strengthen the partnership we have with Lewis University and be a path to the next opportunity for students.”

“The skills and training that myself and fellow classmates have obtained here is something that we’ll never take for granted,” said Amanda Colón, an aviation and aerospace technology student at Lewis. “We are so honored to have been given the privilege and experience to work in and around this aircraft in the pursuit of further advancing our knowledge and skill set.”

In total, American donated eight MD-80s. Four of those planes found homes in Oklahoma, where the aerospace industry is rapidly growing. American operates the world’s largest commercial aviation maintenance base in Tulsa and is committed to working with local schools and organizations on STEM education to help the future workforce succeed. CareerTech also held a ceremony with American team members when its MD-80 — which the students nicknamed Zelda — was delivered last month.

“The future is bright for American in Oklahoma. And to ensure we can continue to meet demand, we have to invest in the future of our workforce, which includes building a pipeline for skilled, trained mechanics,” said Erik Olund, Managing Director of Base Maintenance for American. “Donating this MD-80 for hands-on experience and training is one of the best ways we can do that.”