Nick Popovich and Mike Parks outside the Boeing 737 that will be used for training at the Gary/Chicago International Airport. | Photo provided
Updated: December 4, 2013 3:46PM
Gary/Chicago International Airport was the setting for the Popovich Family Trust to turn over the keys on Nov. 22 to a $1.375 million 737 airplane to Ivy Tech Community College to help it provide emergency response training for students and first responders.
One of the speakers at the ceremony was Mike Parks, division chief of training for the Crown Point Fire-Rescue Department. He is also the district staff training instructor for Indiana Firefighter Training System District 1. This is a division of Indiana Department of Homeland Security. District 1 consists of Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Newton and Jasper counties.
Ivy Tech is working with outside law enforcement, fire, and emergency responder professionals to help coordinate training.
According to Parks, this is a great opportunity for Fire-Rescue personnel to learn hands-on. It takes all kinds of training to be able to professionally handle an emergency.
“This is a wonderful example of how a local community helps make its community college even stronger by providing the resources it needs to be successful,” said Thomas Coley, chancellor of the northwest and north central regions of Ivy Tech. “There is no substitute for hands-on experience, and that’s exactly what this plane will offer our students. The plane will allow us to provide training that we would otherwise have no way of facilitating.
“On behalf of Ivy Tech Community College and its students, we say thank you to the Popovich Family Trust.”
The 707 is provided by Sage Popovich, Inc., a company owned by the Popovich Family Trust. SPI has been in business since 1979 and repossess commercial aircraft and is now the world’s largest specialist in recovery of aviation related equipment. In addition to being the “Aircraft Repo Man” he is the star of the Airplane Repo television series. Popovich, an experienced licensed pilot has flown all different size planes but is at home behind the controls of the really bid aircraft.
Ivy Tech will use the plane in its Emergency Response Training Lab, which just opened at the Gary/Chicago International Airport. The lab will give Ivy Tech students the chance to train with special instructors as part of their education. Students will benefit by response training prior to graduation. Two different types of training will be offered by the Emergency Response Training Lab. First, Ivy Tech students who are studying criminal justice, public safety, law enforcement, and fire and emergency response will be learning form seasoned professionals by watching them in their ongoing training. This training provides a simulated environment with the use of the plane. That is far different that a regular school classroom.
The second type of training will be for seasoned officers, working with District 1 of Homeland Security for firefighters, paramedics, and the State Police Academy. That way the officers can potentially obtain college credit for participating in the training in order to earn their continued education units working with Ivy Tech.
According to Kelly Hauflaire, Ivy Tech spokesperson, this allows Northwest Indiana the chance to put this area at the forefront of this type of training. This is a unique and rare opportunity, and by using the plane for various types of training, Northwest Indiana can position itself as a leader nationwide.
Nick Popovich is working with Ivy Tech and other aircraft professionals to create an endowment fund for the 737 he donated to the school. The goal is to rise between $1 and $2 Million. The endowment will take care of the maintainace and housing for this new classroom.
“My family and I established the Popovich Family Trust to fulfill our obligation to give back to the industry, to the community and to our veterans,” said Popovich. “We accomplish this with direct scholarships, internships and assisting educational institutions, programs for children and families with special needs, and by our work with Veteran Airlift Command where we fly wounded veterans for medical treatments, unit and family reunions and memorial services. We have high hopes for Ivy Tech and the Emergency Response Training Lab for both educational and practical training,” he added.
Ivy Tech is the state’s largest public postsecondary institution and the nation’s largest singly accredited statewide community college system serving nearly 200,000 students annually with campuses throughout Indiana. It serves the state’s engine of workforce development, offering degree programs and training that are meant to meet the needs of the community. Their credits do transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana.