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

High School Build-a-Plane Program takes off


Larry LaCom

The students pose with their finished practice models along with their mentors and teachers.

A fortunate and lively group of high school students from the Tehachapi area is taking advantage of a special class in building a small airplane. This is a hands-on project in which the students attend a once-a-week classroom instruction session, and twice-a-week shop sessions where they will build an actual airplane. About half the students are from Tehachapi High School and half from Valley Oaks Charter School.

Sessions have been underway since early January, and their first shop project involved fabricating small practice model airplanes so students could familiarize themselves with the materials, tools and process they will need to master in order to build the full-scale plane. Working on the models allows them to make their beginner mistakes on a small scale, so they can avoid them on the full-scale airplane. The models were completed on Jan. 24, and they have already begun working on the fuselage of the actual plane.

Tehachapi Society of Pilots (TSP) is sponsoring the class, along with Valley Oaks Charter School. Valley Oaks' principal, Tom Karnes, was in the shop along with Paul Nafziger, TSP Project Manager, and a number of other pilot/mentors to teach the students important skills and processes, safety procedures, the use of special tools, materials handling, and fabrication techniques.

The students are enthusiastic about this class and eager to roll up their sleeves and work together as a team to finish this challenging project. They are working well together, and a generous team of adult mentors has volunteered their time to make sure the project is properly executed. After all, this plane will actually fly a pilot and one passenger into the actual sky – safety precautions are an absolute must.

Larry LaCom

Paul Nafziger talks with Brynn Turpin.

The airplane will be made from a kit, which was delivered to a hangar at the Tehachapi airport in a large wooden crate. Students are learning how to use special tools to work on sheet metal, which will be a major part of the project.

The motivation for this project comes from a desire to see students gain real-world experience in important ways that will give them a competitive advantage in their future careers, and to inspire a love of aviation. See the article in the January 20, 2018 issue of The Loop for more information. The Loop will be following along with these students' progress until completion and first flight.

TSP Project Manager Paul Nafziger hopes to generate enough funding for this project that it can keep bringing in new students over the years, thereby allowing future students to experience the thrill of building a working airplane. Stay tuned.


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