Bellanca Viking

Charlotte County school board authorities will vote whether to accept the donation of this Bellanca Viking aircraft.

PUNTA GORDA — Nothing like training with the real thing.

Charlotte County school board authorities vote next week on whether to accept the donation of an airplane for the district’s Airframe and Powerplant Mechanics program.

The Bellanca Viking was donated to Charlotte Technical College and the district by Mike Zurbrigen, a business owner. He and his brother are pilots with three planes. When the pair learned the airframe and powerplant program was landing with Charlotte County, they thought the Viking would be a perfect fit for students learning a new trade. Entry-level pay in the field can run up to $20 an hour.

The Bellanca has retractable landing gear—most aircraft have fixed wheels, Zurbrigen said. And the Bellanca Viking has a complex and powerful engine with over 200 horsepower, both nice for advanced training in hydraulics and mechanics.

But per district policy, the school board is required to hold a vote on whether to accept any donation that values $750 or more. No price was given on the Viking. But used planes in its class that run can cost $25,000 and up.

The board’s vote is at the Nov. 12 meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the district office, 1445 Education Way, Port Charlotte. The meeting is open to the public.

The school board is still negotiating terms of a lease with the Punta Gorda Airport. Once signed, they will need to receive approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, before the program can begin.

Superintendent of Charlotte County Public Schools Steve Dionisio said the lease should be finalized soon.

And the district has hired a program manager to help navigate the FAA program certification process.

The school board is working with airport authorities to find a place to store the plane until the lease is signed.

Kaley Miller, marketing and communications manager for the airport, said, “I understand we are close to signing a lease with the school board. Our attorneys are working together to finalize it — so I am hopeful it will be on our Nov. 21 Airport Authority board meeting to accept.”

That next Airport Authority meeting will be at 9 a.m. Nov. 21. Meetings are in the Airport Authority board room, 7375 Utilities Road, Building 313, Punta Gorda.

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