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Student-built airplane taking shape

 

Larry LaCom

Mentor John Tumilowicz explains about the green anti-corrosion primer on the cockpit seat section floor to student Brynn Turpin.

The Build-a-Plane project for high school students in Tehachapi is looking less like an assortment of sheet metal parts and more like an airplane that will fly. The Tehachapi Society of Pilots (TSP) and Valley Oaks Charter School-sponsored project has been making consistent progress since January. The participating students are increasing in their skill and knowledge, and the fact that the airplane is taking shape is proving it. Students meet for classroom instruction one day a week, and in the hangar to build the craft two days a week after school.

Paul Nafziger, the project manager, along with Valley Oaks Charter principal Tom Karnes and a number of very helpful adult mentors knowledgeable in aviation, have been shepherding this group of eager young students throughout this school semester. Paul says the students have been gaining in their ability and confidence in working with the tools and materials involved in the project. He says they are a really great team with no friction whatsoever. They're so focused on the progress of the build that their different personalities have been unified for their common goal: completing this airplane and getting to fly in it.

Larry LaCom

The main fuselage section.

He also says one of the benefits of the project is to break out of the age-segregated, grade-based school model into one in which older "graybeard" mentors work alongside young students. Each group is learning from the other and the whole team is growing as a whole, enjoying the project every step of the way. The mentors are sharing their extensive knowledge and the students are eating it up.

The airplane is a kit that arrived at Tehachapi Municipal Airport in a large crate. It's a two-seat Light Sport Aircraft (LSA), a CH 750 Cruzer from the Zenith Aircraft Company. When finished, it will have a cruise speed of 115 MPH, powered by a state-of-the-art 160 HP Belgian-made engine. Its runway takeoff distance will be 400 feet.

There's no set prediction as to when the plane will be ready to fly. As the banner inside the hangar says about the end date: "When it's done!"

You can follow the project on their Facebook page, Tehachapi Build a Plane.

 
 

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