Former gang members open restoration shop

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – What began as an experiment has turned into a profitable venture for four former gang members who were introduced to aviation through the Wathen Foundation and Polyfiber.

Two years ago, as the result of a Federal Youth Opportunity Grant administered by the Wathen Foundation, the four were part of an original group of six who began recovering the control surfaces of a DC-3.

Today, one of the students is in college while four others have formed West Side Aviation at Flabob Airport. The company is set up to do recovering and complete restoration on aircraft. The four have already recovered a Husky, Funk and J-3 and are currently doing a total refurbishment of a Waco Cabin.

All four are finishing high school and planning to pursue A&P ratings through a local A&P school. The fifth member expects to return to West Side Aviation when he completes his college education.

Jon Goldenbaum, of Consolidated Aircraft Coverings (Polyfiber), is providing direction for the four students, while the Wathen Foundation is continuing to support their efforts. The foundation expects to offer more entry level positions for this program in the near future. “It has achieved a level of success that goes way beyond what we originally expected,” said Thomas Wathen. “It is truly exciting to see young people so focused on an activity they are clearly turning into a career and these are the kind of skills we need in aviation.”

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