MANCHESTER — Students at Manchester School of Technology planning to build an airplane during the 2019-20 school year will get their first lesson by taking to the skies.
Twenty-four students enrolled in the new plane-building course — the first of its kind in the Northeast — will join in a Young Eagles program on Aug. 17, with local pilots offering short, free flights in their personal aircraft to students ages 8 to 17.
The Young Eagles program is part of PlaneFest, a day-long event at the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire in Londonderry, which helped launch the new plane-building partnership with Manchester School of Technology (MST).
“The Young Eagles program is run annually by the museum, but this year it’s being used to give plane-building students a taste of flight in small aircraft similar to what they’ll be building during the school year, a two-seat light sport RV-12iS airplane,” said Jeff Rapsis, the museum’s executive director.
“This terrific program will take STEM education beyond the classroom and put it to use in the workshop. For students who participate, our aim is to open their eyes to careers in aerospace and other rewarding fields.”
Students, working with MST faculty and a team of volunteer mentors from the Aviation Museum, will start assembling the kit-based aircraft when school starts in September. Plans call for the plane, which will be built at the school, to make its debut and first flight at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport by the end of the school year in June.
“The plane-build program will give students experience in a wide range of crafts and skills, including metal-working, electricity, print-reading, and assembly,” said Rapsis.
Tango Flight developed and operates high school plane-build programs in three states. It supports the construction and operation of experimental Light Sport Aircraft by high school students.
The course will also include extensive classroom work in areas of science and manufacturing, Rapsis added.
The program is designed to be self-funding. Once built and flown, the plane will be sold on the open market, with proceeds going to pay for future student-built aircraft projects.
“The plane-build project, which received unanimous school board support, will not use any taxpayer or school budget funds,” said Rapsis.
To launch the project, the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire is raising start-up funds of $350,000 to cover the cost for the first two years, much of which will be raised through the sale of $187,500 in tax credits from the N.H. Community Development Finance Authority, awarded to the Aviation Museum in June.
To date, the museum has raised about $200,000 for the project, Rapsis said, through a mix of tax credit sales, individual contributions, and institutional and foundation support. The museum will also hold its annual fundraising gala on Tuesday, Sept. 24 at Southern New Hampshire University, at which the MST Plane-Build Partnership will be featured.
Public contributions are welcome and may be made through the Aviation Museum, 27 Navigator Road, Londonderry, NH 03053 or online at www.nhahs.org.
Rapsis said the museum is also trying other educational initiatives to get young people interested in aviation and aerospace, career fields that are currently suffering from a shortage of qualified candidates.
Boeing projects North America could need more than 200,000 new pilots over the next 20 years as well as 189,000 technicians.
Regional airlines and flight instruction schools could see the biggest shortages.
The museum’s PlaneFest! event on Saturday, Aug. 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. is open to the public, but this year there’s an emphasis on exposing young people to aviation-related topics. Besides the Young Eagles free plane rides for young people age 8 to 17, the event also includes workshops on drones and close-up views of aircraft on the tarmac.
There’s also a new event: the Aviation Museum’s first-ever Geography Bee. Rapsis says will make use of their collection of vintage air sickness bags. Middle school students will be challenged to match barf bags from international airlines to their home countries for what Rapsis described as “valuable prizes.”
For more information on “PlaneFest!” event as well as the Aviation Museum’s annual gala in September, visit www.aviationmuseumofnh.com.
For more information about the plane build project, visit https://tangoflight.org.