July 14, 2016

General aviation’s future will be charted by the next generation, and students from Wisconsin’s Weyauwega-Fremont High School (WFHS), winners of the 2016 General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA)/Build A Plane Aviation Design Challenge, recently got a head start on their future by building a Glasair Sportsman in Arlington, WA.

For Derrick Cleaves, Logan Feltz, Austin Krause, Natasha Stemwedel, science teacher Mike Hansen and chaperone Jerry Graf, it was a hands-on reward for winning the competition, which attracted entries from 76 high schools in 31 states and Washington, DC.

Under the supervision of Glasair Aviation’s Two Weeks to Taxi program, the students began work June 20 on the two-seat, amateur-built experimental kit aircraft with its owner, Dennis Willows, his daughter Grace and his grandsons Angus and Ian.

“It’s an amazing opportunity for our students,” said WFHS Principal Jeremy Schroeder, adding that involvement of the students and their teachers extends beyond the classroom. The WFHS team was drawn from students participating in Aviators by Design, an after-school program that shares the goals of the Aviation Design Challenge.

Aviation Design Challenge

For the WFHS team, the highlight of the Sportsman project was seeing the culminating results of their work, when they attached the wings and engines, and took the airplane out of the jig “for its first landing,” said Hansen. Hansen said his reward was watching the “students develop their communication skills – asking and answering questions with regard to different components of the plane.”

To attract students interested in science, technology, engineering and math who will succeed today’s aviation professionals, GAMA and Build A Plane launched the Aviation Design Challenge in 2013. Supported by GAMA’s members, it provides competing high schools with the Fly to Learn curricula and online training sessions that teach the basics of aerodynamic engineering, X-Plane software and the winner’s trip to Washington.

The Aviation Design Challenge program’s emphasis on the importance of general aviation, including business aviation as an industry that supports more than one million American jobs, is reflective of the same theme at the center of the No Plane No Gain advocacy campaign, jointly sponsored by NBAA and GAMA.

GAMA member companies sponsored the team’s travel, lodging and meals for the Build A Plane initiative. Former GAMA Chairman Steve Taylor of Boeing provided the students with a tour of Boeing’s facility in Everett, as well as the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

Build A Plane

“Building the Sportsman with our Aviation Design Challenge winners is one of the highlights of the year for me personally and for the GAMA staff,” said GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce. “Over the past four years, it’s been an incredible experience to watch how very talented and enthusiastic young students develop their skills and increase their confidence in just two weeks as they build an airplane.

“The general aviation manufacturing industry – which includes manufacturers, engineers, pilots, mechanics, and many others – is facing a shortage of skilled employees in the coming years as a large segment of our current workforce approaches retirement,” he added. “The Aviation Design Challenge, made possible by our tremendous sponsors, is an important way to share with young people the many career options that exist in aviation and encourage them to consider a position in our industry.”

For information on the 2017 GAMA/Build a Plane Aviation Design Challenge, contact: [email protected].