Students Help Assemble 727 Exhibit in Chicago Museum

sealPurdue News

October 14, 1994

Students Help Assemble 727 Exhibit in Chicago Museum

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.–Thanks to the efforts of students in Purdue University's Department of Aviation Technology, a 727-passenger jet soon will "take off" inside Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry.

On Oct. 28, the museum will celebrate the opening of a new aviation exhibit featuring a Boeing 727-100 aircraft, donated to the museum in 1992 by United Airlines as the centerpiece for the "Take Flight" exhibit showcasing modern commercial aviation.

To incorporate the plane into the museum, designs called for the plane–all 100,000 pounds of it–to be cantilevered from a second-floor balcony so that visitors could see everything from the cockpit to the landing gear. Purdue, recognized as having one of the best aviation technology schools in the nation, was chosen to modify some of the aircraft's systems to simulate flight.

"This was an incredible opportunity for our students to work directly with Boeing and united in determining how old systems work and in developing alternative systems," said Mark Thom, assistant professor of aviation technology. "Not only were students able to work on an actual aircraft, they also gained valuable management, leadership and problem-solving skills in coming up with solutions for making the whole thing work."

Fifteen students in Purdue's aviation technology program were involved in the project:

• Kurt Ruckersfeldt is a senior from Lafayette.

• Tracy Drayer is a senior from Lafayette.

• Doug Reese is a junior from Lafayette.

• Lina Kay is a senior from West Lafayette.

• Eric Newman is a senior from West Lafayette.

• Nils Johnson is a senior from West Lafayette.

• Joe Green is a senior from Delphi.

• Jeff Lakin is from Indianapolis and is a graduate.

• Chris Pearson is from Indianapolis and is a graduate.

• Zoë Abdul is from Indianapolis and is a graduate.

• Scott Rakowski is a senior from Griffith.

• Terry Brennan is from Noblesville and is a graduate.

• Eduardo Carballosa is from Miami Fla. and is a graduate.

• Joe Comella is a senior from Canandaigua. N.Y.

• Aisha Steptoe is a senior from Newark N.J.

Those 15 students were involved in examining the initial components of the aircraft and coming up with alternatives for its introduction into the museum. Last summer, Johnson and Comella worked as paid interns at the museum, doing everything from retrofitting the plane's electrical lighting systems to tackling the problem of how to lower landing gear without the use of the high-pressure hydraulic systems normally used on 727's.

To solve the hydraulic problem, students decided that removing the brakes and replacing the wheels and tires with composite plastic replicas would allow the use of a safer and more cost-efficient five-ton mechanical screw actuator to raise and lower the landing gear. The flight control systems were changed to pneumatic actuation as a way to eliminate some other potentially messy hydraulics.

The completed exhibit is awe-inspiring and a tribute to the hard work and determination of everyone involved, said Gary M. Eiff, associate professor of aviation technology and co-administrator of the project with Thom.

"Visitors are going to be amazed when they see this full-size 727 hanging in the museum," he said. "It's truly a one-of-a-kind display where people can learn about and experience flight technology at the same time."

Visitors will be able to view the cockpit and participate in hands-on learning activities related to air speed, radar and navigation; inspect the inner workings of a Pratt & Whitney engine; and sit in a theater showing short video clips on topics such as how to fly, flight planning, passenger service, mechanics of the plane and safety.

The permanent exhibit opens with a formal ceremony at 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 28. Then it will be open during regular museum hours of 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Admission prices for the museum are $6 for adults, $5 for senior citizens and $2.50 for children ages 5 through 12. There is no special admission price for the aviation exhibit.

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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