The Loop Newspaper - Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

By Paul Nafziger
TSP Project Manager 

TSP Student Build-a-Plane Program


Photo provided

The kit with a finished plane in the background.

In an effort to interest students in Aerospace, Science, and Technology; The Tehachapi Society of Pilots (TSP) in conjunction with Valley Oaks Charter School has started an aircraft build class. Such a project is valuable to students for many reasons. Below are a number of skills learned that are shown on a kit manufacturers website. Additionally, students will learn many intangible skills needed for life. Examples are working as a team, attention to detail, showing up on time, leadership, and many others.

Skills & Experience Basic Airframe Assembly

• Reading and understanding blueprints - math (metric measurements), english

• Reading and understanding assembly instructions - communications, english, math

• Planning - planning the sequence of building / assembly

• Safety - importance of safety, safety equipment, safety procedures

• Sheet-metal assembly - shop (use of many different tools), math

• Group cooperation - working together to make the different sections come together.

Aircraft Finishing

• Paint Scheme - art, design, shop

• Powerplant (engine) - physics, shop

• Instruments / avionics - electrics, physics, testing, shop

• Interior (upholstery) - home economics, design, art

• Weight & Balance - math, computer, writing

• FAA Inspection - communication, writing

Additional/Optional Topics

• Flying / aerodynamics - physics

• Communicate with other schools and/or pilots - writing, communication, foreign language

• Navigation - math, geography, communications

• Meteorology / Weather - geography

• Aircraft design and construction - math, physics, computer (CAD)

• Aviation history - history

• Aircraft materials - chemistry, physics

• Flight Planning - math, communications, writing

• Career planning - math (engineering), drafting (CAD), manufacturing, etc.

While the above lists the main skills and experiences that participants will gain, the potential scope of the project is nearly unlimited.

An aircraft construction project will leave a lasting impression on participants while teaching them important life skills. The finished and flying aircraft will leave an unparalleled sense of accomplishment and pride, with participants having seen the project through from start to finish!

Photo provided

Group shot of students and mentors.

Valley Oaks Charter School has agreed to offer a course, taking responsibility for the academic portion and student interfaces. The TSP will provide experienced aircraft builders and mechanics for hands-on training and financial support. We plan two two-hour building sessions (Monday and Wednesday, 3-5 p.m.) in hangar 17W and one classroom session each week (Tuesday, time TBD at Valley Oaks). Any high school student in the local area is eligible to apply to participate. Class size will need to be limited to about 15 students.

Our idea has been met with enthusiasm by the pilots in Tehachapi. About a dozen have already committed to volunteer to tutor the young people.

Our goal is to institute a permanent program where the completed aircraft is sold to fund the next years project. We'll intend to build two before we sell one so that we can fly the participating students in the product they built.


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