Single Largest Equipment Donation in Okanagan College’s History Lands In Vernon
A world-class aircraft donated to Okanagan College for training purposes was unveiled today during a ceremony at the Vernon Aerospace campus. The donation marks the most valuable gift of equipment the College has received in its 50-plus-year history.
The British Aerospace Model Jetstream 31, valued at nearly $700,000 was donated by the Swanberg family of Grande Prairie & Fort St. John, in memory of Sylvan and Dorothy Swanberg.
Their son Loran was joined by family members to announce the donation in support of the College’s Aircraft Maintenance Engineering (AME) M-License program, which trains students in the maintenance, repair and overhaul of fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.
“Our family is very proud to be able to support the next generation of Aircraft Maintenance Engineers,” says Swanberg. “Continuous education and hands-on training is so important in the aviation industry.
“We are delighted that this aircraft, donated in honour of my parents, has found a wonderful home at Okanagan College, where it will inspire and enrich the learning experience for students for years to come.”
Swanberg presented the keys to the aircraft to Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton, who noted that the value of the aircraft as a teaching tool far exceeded any dollar value that could be ascribed to the plane.
“This gift will enrich the training experience for our students for years to come,” said Hamilton. “On behalf of Okanagan College, I want to express our sincere gratitude to the Swanberg family for this support.”
In accordance with Transport Canada regulations, the Jetstream was disassembled in Calgary and shipped by truck to its new home at the College’s AME hangar in Vernon for reassembly. Students were included in the reassembly process and are already at work on maintenance projects on the aircraft.
With baby-boomer retirements looming and a serious shortage of aircraft mechanics on the horizon, Hamilton says the College is working with industry partners to be proactive in addressing skills shortages.
“We know we are facing a shortage of aircraft mechanics,” explains Hamilton. “Boeing has projected a need for 584,000 maintenance technicians globally over the next 20 years. Support like this gift plays an integral role in Okanagan College’s efforts to train the skilled workers our province and country needs.”
Sylvan Swanberg’s career in the transport industry spanned more than 50 years. He founded Swanberg Air in Grande Prairie, AB, in 2000. The company offered cargo, scheduled and charter passenger services in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia for 11 years. A decision was made to cease operations after Swanberg passed away in April 2011; his wife Dorothy passed away in June 2012.
The family has previously donated aircraft to three other post-secondary institutions in Canada, including Jetstream 31s to Red River College in Winnipeg, and Northern Lights College in Dawson Creek, and a 601 Challenger to SAIT Polytechnic in Calgary.
There is another unique connection between the Jetstreams at Northern Lights and Okanagan College, notes Steve Moores, the College’s Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship.
“It’s all the more special that our students will have a chance to work on a Swanberg Jetstream here at the College, and they’ll see another when they head up to Dawson Creek to complete their training,” says Moores.
AME students train for 48 weeks at the College’s hangar in Vernon and then complete the final 14 weeks of the program at Northern Lights College.
“We hope that link resonates with the students,” adds Swanberg. “Our family is very excited about the legacy behind these aircraft and the connection between them. These donations are meant to celebrate and carry on my parents’ strong belief in higher education and lifelong learning.