Engineering seniors help restore aircraft at museum

A few graduating seniors of The University of Akron’s College of Engineering donated their time to assist with the restoration, preservation, and display of historical aircraft at the MAPS Air Museum, located adjacent to the Akron-Canton Airport, on Sunday, Oct. 3.

Mechanical engineering students Ryan Harty, Thomas Bose, and Pike Bishop, who are all scheduled to graduate in the spring semester, were among the museum’s volunteers. The volunteered time was part of a requirement for Senior Seminar, where students are required to perform 20 hours of community service.

With the help of volunteers, the museum is able to perform work on aging aircraft that require careful maintenance and component fabrication to restore missing or damaged parts.

On Sunday, the students first set out to paint the topside of a Grumman F-14 Tomcat, an American fighter jet with a widely proven combat record featured in the film “Top Gun.” Careful consideration had to be paid to the jet’s variable-geometry wing components (as they are flexible and easily damaged) and the carbon-fiber shrouds hugging the massive after-burner nozzles at the aft of the aircraft.

In addition, the students performed detailed restoration work on an LTV A-7 Corsair II, a subsonic-attack aircraft that sported a variety of armaments.

Under the direction of Carl Bergsneider, a regular volunteer at MAPS, the Akron students restored the US Air Force insignia on the plane’s folding wings and iconic fuselage. The surface had to be prepped and colors carefully matched with the original colors of Vietnam War era aircraft.

The students learned to install permanent aircraft-grade rivets on components to be mounted on an aircraft’s landing gear. Time was also spent repositioning a “Blue Angels” variant Douglas A-4 Skyhawk in front of a massive American flag.

Ryan Harty said he enjoyed the opportunity to preserve American history and learn new skills.

Meanwhile, the idea of getting his hands dirty appealed to Tom Bose. “Besides, it’s not everyday you get to stand on an F-14,” he added.

In addition to providing valuable time to the museum, the students were able to observe many of the museum’s aircraft and displays. Of particular interest was a MiG-17, a Russian aircraft, where guests could enter the cockpit and manipulate the mechanically-operated control surfaces of the aircraft.

Students who are interested in attending or volunteering their time (you get to see everything for free) should contact Carl Bergsneider at the MAPS Air Museum via phone. The museum is just a quick trip down highway 77 and offers an entire day of entertainment.