Skip to main content

Aircraft cleared for learning: Real jet turned into K-12 classroom


There is no chalkboard at the front of this classroom, no space up front for a teacher to stand and scribble lessons during a lecture.

Instead, there are knobs, switches and buttons. Lots of knobs, switches and buttons – more than most people would know what to do with.

But that's the point of this new airplane cockpit classroom, called "The Learning Jet," at the St. Paul Downtown Airport: Teach kids from kindergarten through 12th grade to get their heads in the clouds and hands on a control stick.

The Learning Jet is a former Boeing 727 FedEx cargo plane, renovated and stationed at the airport to serve as a real-world educational tool for young learners, the Pioneer Press reports. Just about everything on the control panel is operable, with the exception of the engines (which have been disabled) and the landing gear (which is locked in place), the paper reports.

The classroom is expected to be used heavily by students at Farnsworth, an aerospace-focused magnet school that's part of the St. Paul Public School System, the Star Tribune reported. It will be open to field trips from other schools as well.

The aircraft accrued more than 40,000 hours of flight time, the Star Tribune notes, before it was donated to the Minnesota Association of Women in Aviation in July of 2013.

Here's video of the Boeing (nicknamed "Timmy") officially landing for learning duty:

Since then, much of the aircraft has been gutted, new floors installed, the FedEx logo painted over. The association has been providing photos and updates throughout the $100,000 renovation process, funded by a federal grant.

Cindy Schreiber, head of the aerospace program at Farnsworth, told WCCO they believe it's the first of its kind in the United States.

The Pioneer Press says the jet classroom will be open in October, but that could be just the beginning. The paper reports the group AirSpace Minnesota wants to build a full Aviation Learning Center in a vacant hangar at the airport's Holman Field, at the cost of $5 million.

"Timmy" is part of a local focus on the national STEM education curriculum – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – which aims to push more young students, particularly girls and students of color, into those fields, the Star Tribune said. (Farnsworth throws "Aerospace" in the mix to get STEAM.)

The United States ranks 25th internationally in mathematics among industrialized nations, and 17th in science, the STEM website says, as the number of jobs in those fields is increasing. The aim of the program is to get more Americans involved in such professions, pushing the United States toward the top of the global rankings, the site says.

The number of students enrolled in the Farnsworth program is at least 553. Interested families can apply online.

Next Up

Justin Jefferson

Vikings-49ers: 5 things you can count on

Sunday's matchup is a pivotal game in the NFC playoff picture.

Gopher Football

Watch: Gophers troll Badgers with 'Jump Around' after Saturday's win

First they took Paul Bunyan's Axe. Then they took their tradition.

Brandon Richart, missing person

Search underway for missing man in Anoka area

Brandon Richart was last seen Nov. 17.

U.S. Bank Stadium

5 teams win first state championships at Prep Bowl

A pair of records fell as the Prep Bowl lived up to the hype.

ashley Carlson

Remains of missing WI mom found in Pine County, MN

Ashley Miller-Carlson was 33 years old.

D'Angelo Russell

D'Lo's late takeover helps Timberwolves win double-OT thriller

Russell caught fire to help the Timberwolves get back to .500.

Gopher Football

Gophers suffocate Badgers, reclaim Paul Bunyan's Axe

Minnesota picked up its first home win over the Badgers since 2003.

Meeker County Sheriff's Office

Boy, 6, run over after falling off trailer in Meeker Co. tree farm accident

He was airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center with internal injuries.

Target store

Target unveils deals for 2-day 'Cyber Monday' event

The promotion kicks off Sunday, November 28.

Screen Shot 2021-11-27 at 9.59.30 AM

Edina police warn of recent burglary trend targeting garages and vehicles

The Edina Police Department is increasing patrols in affected neighborhoods in response to the trend.