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ATEC students paint Phantom Fighter

Posted: December 18, 2012 5:33 p.m.
Updated: December 19, 2012 5:00 a.m.
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Level one Auto Collision students at the Applied Technology Education Campus (ATEC) repainted a portion of an F-4C Phantom Fighter at the Camden airport this month.

The plane’s tail section was previously red in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen. ATEC students painted the jet its original color, an array of army green and brown. Auto Collision Instructor David Weaver ordered paint from Nappa and Bullock Automotive. Weaver’s class mixed the paint with a flat to give the plane its classic matte color.

The F-4C was used between 1963 and 1991 and was “considered the greatest airplane of the Vietnam War Era,” according to the plaque in front of the plane. The Air Force loans the planes as display models around the country, said Billy Holden, assistant manager of Woodward Field. Colt Shirley of Signs by Colt, on Broad Street, created the decals.

“It’s a straight-forward paint job,” Weaver said. “Students can use the same skills working on cars, buses, helicopters or tractor trailers.”

Weaver said this type of project is perfect for his students who are used to being in a controlled and covered area. Working on the plane “reinforced repair procedures students have to memorize,” in a natural environment where weather can be an issue. During the four day period, Weaver’s two Auto Collision classes worked on hand-sanding the plane and then painting it; the weather was about 70 degrees with no wind or rain. The class borrowed palm sanders from ATEC’s building construction class.

“It’s interesting because it’s a piece of American history,” Jamerius Summerson, 16, said. “It’s my first time being this close to a plane.”

Jamerius joined the class “to get his hands dirty.” Learning how to work effectively and efficiently with others is an achievement that has stood out to him.

As a part of safety precautions while working with hazardous materials, Weaver made the class follow Foreign Object Deck (FOD) duty every couple of hours. Students used gloves and masks in order to handle cleaning disinfectants -- chemical degreasers to clear away any natural contaminates on the plane -- before paint was applied. Student safety was Weaver’s main concern as they were 12-feet off of the ground.

Doing repairs up high is very different that doing them on solid ground, 10th-grader Marquis Engrem said. The Camden High School student said he enjoyed working on the plane just as much as the cars they’ve worked on this semester. Marquis, 15, said he the skills he’s learned in the class this year could help him maintain a part-time job during college.

One of the two female students in the class, Kassi Knight, 16, said she like the old MTV show “Pimp My Ride” and thought she’d give auto collision a try. Kassi’s peers call her “Boots,” because she works in cowboy boots almost every day throughout the fall semester. She has an art background and was considering pursuing photography in the future, but enjoys auto collision a lot more, she said.

“This class is the greatest thing in my day,” she said. “The guys in the class are like by brothers.”

Kassi, a North Central High School student, advised any other female high school students interested in the class to not worry about keeping up with the boys. Although she has a very supportive grandfather who helps her as needed, she said the class is very manageable for female students if they “keep their head in the game and don’t flirt with the boys.”

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