Students begin building planes

The winners of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) and Build A Plane Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) aviation design challenge competition began today to assemble two Glasair Sportsman aircraft at Glasair Aviation in Arlington, Washington.

The building process will take two weeks. The teams — each consisting of four students, a teacher and a chaperone — are from Canby High School in Canby, Minnesota, and Saline High School in Saline, Michigan, and were announced as the winners last month.

Under the guidance of staff from Glasair, Build A Plane and GAMA, each team will build a Glasair Sportsman, a metal and composite aircraft that seats four adults. Sold as a kit, the plane can be assembled with assistance in two weeks through Glasair’s “Two Weeks to Taxi” program. The planes are scheduled to be flown to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where they will be featured at AirVenture 2013 from July 29-Aug. 4.

“What an incredible experience for these students to put the STEM skills they developed in school this year to first design a virtual aircraft and now assist in building real airplanes,” said GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce. “I’m thrilled to be working alongside them and talk to each participant about the many career possibilities available in engineering, manufacturing, maintaining and piloting the aircraft.”

GAMA member companies are contributing resources, equipment and supplies, including the airframe for one of the planes, and propellers, certified avionics equipment, parts, and paint for both planes. In addition, Glasair is donating two weeks of staff time to support the build.

Besides supplies, each team is receiving round-trip airfare, hotels, meals and field trips to visit the nearby Boeing aircraft factory, Museum of Flight and the Seattle Tacoma airport facility, including the control tower, operations center, and BBA Aviation’s Aircraft Service International Group (ASIG) commercial fueling operations.

“GAMA members and a few other wonderful component sponsors have demonstrated remarkable generosity in supporting this build, and we are extremely grateful to them,” Bunce added. “Their donations show the extraordinary commitment our companies have to educating and nurturing our future workforce and industry leaders of tomorrow.”

This competition attracted 27 schools in 22 states in its first year. Schools used complimentary “Fly to Learn” software, including curricula and training, which allowed them to design and fly their own virtual airplanes. Each school entered a design to compete in a virtual fly-off, which was scored on aerodynamic and performance parameters. Judges from GAMA selected the winning high schools.

“This build marks the culmination of the competition, but is hopefully just the beginning of a lifelong attachment to aviation for these students,” said Build A Plane President and Founder Lyn Freeman. “We are so proud to be involved in this effort, and look forward to seeing the completed airplanes fly in the coming weeks.”

The Canby High School team consists of students Leah Schmitt, Wyatt Johannsen, Brandon Stripling and John Deslauriers, teacher Dan Lutgen and chaperone Robert Slaba. The Saline High School team includes students Dustan Muir, Lee Lewis Luckhardt, Kyle LaBombarbe and Julia Garner, teacher Ed Redies, and chaperone Dustan Muir.

Companies contributing to the Aviation Design Challenge Competition Build include:

  • Appareo
  • Aspen Avionics
  • Aviall, Inc.
  • BBA Aviation
  • Beechcraft
  • Boeing
  • Cessna Aircraft Company
  • Cobham Avionics
  • Dassault Falcon
  • Duncan Aviation
  • Embraer
  • ForeFlight, LLC
  • Garmin International Inc.
  • GE Aviation
  • Glasair Aviation
  • Gulfstream
  • Hartzell Propeller, Inc.
  • Honeywell
  • Jeppesen
  • Jet Aviation
  • JP Instruments
  • L-3 Communications
  • Lycoming
  • Pacific Coast Avionics
  • Piaggio Aero Industries S.p.A.
  • Piper Aircraft, Inc.
  • Rockwell Collins, Inc.
  • Sporty’s
  • StandardAero
  • UTC Aerospace Systems
  • Wipaire, Inc.

To follow the progress of the planes as they are built, visit GAMA’s Facebook page. For more information:,, and

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