MANCHESTER — Members of a school board subcommittee are scheduled to hear a pitch for a new program organizers hope will really take off — a new hands-on class where high school students will learn to build a two-seat airplane.
Representatives with the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire are scheduled to go before the school board’s Committee on Curriculum and Instruction today to discuss a partnership between the district and Tango Flight to develop an “airplane build” program at Manchester School of Technology, where students would learn aerospace engineering while building a plane, then sell on the open market — with proceeds used to fund additional plane builds in future years.
If approved, Manchester School of Technology (MST) would become only the fourth school in the country to offer the program, and the only one in New England and throughout the Northeast.
“We think it’s a great opportunity,” said Jeff Rapsis, executive director of the Aviation Museum of NH. “This program will give students real-world, hands-on experience building a full-size, functioning airplane. It will really put Manchester on the cutting edge of aerospace engineering opportunities, at no cost to the taxpayers.”
Tonight’s meeting is scheduled to get underway at 6:30 p.m in the Walter Stiles Room on the second floor of City Hall.
The proposed program comes at a time when the airline industry is facing shortages in qualified pilots, mechanics and air traffic controllers.
Boeing projects North America could need more than 200,000 new pilots over the next 20 years and 189,000 technicians.
Regional airlines and flight instruction schools could see the biggest shortages.
According to Rapsis, students will learn all aspects of aviation and aerospace engineering building an RV-12iS aircraft, working with museum and MST personnel and local aviation companies, while earning college credit with Project Lead the Way engineering curriculum.
“The STEM course is unique in providing a college level curriculum with hands-on experience building an airplane,” said Rapsis.
Rapsis said the plane is purchased as a do-it-yourself kit.
“These kits are marketed to people looking to build them in their garages,” said Rapsis.
MST has the option to incorporate the RV-12iS build program into an existing or proposed curriculum that may better suit their teaching structure, Rapsis said.
“We’ve done high school outreach programs in the past, run out of the museum,” said Rapsis. “It’s tough to get students to come to us, and we wanted to get involved in a program where we go to a school. The goal of the program is to give students a unique once in a lifetime experience: a real world experience building an airplane, along with exposure to the many career paths available in the aerospace and aviation industries.”
Rapsis said mentors from the Aviation Museum and local businesses will guide the students in the actual construction of the aircraft, as well as provide help in the classroom and supervise aircraft maintenance activities.
The project would be a partnership between the museum, MST and Tango Flight, the firm which developed and operated high school plane-build programs in three states. Tango Flight is a 501©3 non-profit Texas corporation (EIN 82-0652617), created to support the construction and operation of experimental Light Sport Aircraft by high school students.
Rapsis said the program will be funded through the Aviation Museum of NH’s fundraising and grant activities. He estimates the cost and value of his organization’s contributions will total around $150,000.
“This is something a non-profit needs to do,” said Rapsis. “Outreach is part of our mission.”
According to Rapsis, Tango Flight would maintain possession of the aircraft and provide insurance. Once completed, the plane would be sold on the open market, with the funds generated used to “fund another kit to keep the program going,” Rapsis said.