A team consisting of Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) Aviation Maintenance Technology students and instructor, and a restaurant owner, are busy disassembling a Dassault Falcon 20 business jet to make it part of a Rome area restaurant.


The initiative is part of a Purple Heart Project to benefit veterans in the area according to Sam Edwards, owner of Sam’s Burger Deli/Schroder’s in Armuchee, who describes his restaurant as being veteran-orientated.


“I have 977 pictures of veterans on the wall in my restaurant,” said Edwards, a Vietnam veteran. “I call it the wall of honor if you come into my restaurant, and are a veteran, you get your picture taken and put on the wall.”


Edwards is in the process of moving his restaurant to a new location and pieces of the jet airplane will be the featured part of the décor. One of the wings will serve as a bar in the restaurant, the nose of the plane will be in the front of the building, and the fuselage with be repurposed into a luxury dining room.


Customers can reserve the fuselage dining area for $100 and that money will go into a fund. At the end of the year, all of the money collected in the fund will go to a Purple Heart family in the five county area.


“I felt like I should do something good with this airplane, as opposed to just making it a part of the building, it ought to generate some good will on its own,” said Edwards. “So that’s the reason I decided to turn it into a Purple Heart Project.”


The new restaurant location will be on Highway 27 a few miles from the Richard B. Russell Regional Airport and GNTC’s Aviation Training Center in Armuchee.


“I think it’s neat because it kind of ties into the airport, it’s just down the road,” said Stephen Griffin, instructor of Aviation Maintenance at GNTC, who is overseeing the students on the project.


“I am a veteran myself, so the fact that our students can be part of this to support the people that give us our freedom and our ability to have education is really good for our community,” continued Griffin.


The team is currently working in a hanger at the Polk County Airport. Edwards says that when he first came up with the idea to have an airplane fuselage as a dining room he had no idea that he would come across one this good.


“Polk County had this airplane back here for many years and it is just a beautiful plane,” said Edwards. “It belonged to William Johnson who founded the Ritz-Carlton Hotel chain and owned 146 Waffle Houses.”


Greg Merwitz, an Aviation Maintenance Technology student from Rome, says that the project was an opportunity for more experience because the Falcon 20 is different from the planes at the Aviation Training Center that the students usually work with.


“We needed more tools than usual and would have to come up with different problem solving techniques,” said Merwitz. “It’s not everyday someone says ‘Hey we need help tearing apart this jet,’ so I definitely took the opportunity when I got it.”


To show his appreciation, Edwards has agreed to donate one of the jets from the airplane to GNTC’s Aviation Maintenance program to use as a teaching tool.


“Everybody at GNTC has just been wonderful, I don’t know what I would have been able to do without them,” said Edwards. “I would still be trying to figure out how to take this airplane apart if I didn’t have the school involved.”


Georgia Northwestern Technical College provides quality workforce education to the citizens of Northwest Georgia. Students have the opportunity to earn an associate degree, diploma, or a certificate in business, health, industrial, or public service career paths. This past year, 14,151 people benefited from GNTC’s credit and noncredit programs. With an annual credit enrollment of 7,956 students, GNTC is the largest college in Northwest Georgia. GNTC has an additional enrollment of 6,195 people through adult education, continuing education, business and industry training, and Georgia Quick Start.  For more information about GNTC, visit us at GNTC.edu or contact a Student Help Center on any one of our six campus locations at 866-983-4682.  GNTC is a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia and an Equal Opportunity Institution.