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Tech students to tune up GE engine for new display

The GE jet engine is removed from the back of the C. Bain moving truck with the help of a borrowed Bourneuf Corporation forklift. (Spenser Hasak)

LYNN — Excitement was in the air when a 75-year-old jet engine that has been donated to the city by GE Aviation was delivered to the machine shop at Lynn Vocational Technical Institute on Thursday morning.

Lynn Tech students and staff will work to cut open and spruce up the engine, which will be displayed as a piece of public art somewhere in the city — the project is a Beyond Walls initiative.

The piece of machinery is an I-16 engine, a derivative of the original I-A engine. Two of them powered the Bell XP-59A Airacomet to the first U.S. jet-powered flight in October of 1942 — General Electric manufactured and tested them in Lynn, according to Richard Gorham, a GE spokesman.

Gorham said the engine, which weighs about 800 pounds, has been out of use for quite awhile and had been sitting in surplus.

“It should make a great kinetic sculpture,” Gorham said. “Before it gets displayed permanently, it should be a great opportunity for kids to do some experimenting and disassembling.”

Students and teachers from the Auto Body, Auto Tech, Metal Fabrication and Precision Machine department at Lynn Tech will work to disassemble the engine and fix it up a bit under the direction of GE engineers, according to Mike Pickering, an instructor with the Lynn Tech machine shop and the school’s robotics club.

Al Wilson, founder and executive director of Beyond Walls, said the engine will be displayed in a yet-to-be-determined high traffic area of the city next spring after the work is completed.

Wilson said the organization had approached GE in the spring of last year for some kind of ode to the industrial roots of Lynn — the project is based on feedback from residents and business owners downtown who wanted more public art in the city.

Wilson said GE indicated that it would be able to donate the engine about a year ago, which led to work beginning with Lynn Tech and Superintendent Dr. Catherine C. Latham.

“This is a big day because it’s been a long time coming,” Wilson said.

Pickering said Dan Cornelius from GE, one of the mentors with Lynn Tech’s robotics club, approached the school with the project over the summer. He said that prompted meetings with Latham, Lynn Tech principal Robert Buontempo, Gorham and Wilson to go over the logistics of the project.

Pickering said GE was going to take the lead on what needed to be done — students and teachers will cut open the engine and with the display, the general public will get to see inside. After it’s taken apart, students and teachers will clean and paint the machinery.
Pickering said the Lynn School Committee approved the engine being brought to Lynn Tech to work on. He said the engine is a piece of history.

“I think it’s a great thing for the students to see what the inside of a jet engine looks like,” Pickering said. “It’s an opportunity for them to see what GE actually does … It gives them an opportunity to see what’s been going on in their city for the past 70 years.”

Marcus Taylor, 17, a senior at Lynn Tech who studies metal fabrication, was one of the students in attendance for the arrival of the jet engine. He was eager to get started on the work, saying, “I feel like it will be a wonderful experience.”

“I think it’s very exciting,” Latham said. “When do (our students) get a chance to work on a jet engine, to see the inner workings of it? I think they’re all excited. So are we. It’s really a great opportunity.”

Buontempo said the kids are definitely excited about the project.

“These are the things they’ll remember,” he said.

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