Students start building plane

Four students, a teacher, and two advisors from Sunrise Mountain High School in Las Vegas, Nevada —which won the second General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA)/Build A Plane Aviation Design Challenge — began building a Glasair Sportsman airplane June 16 at Glasair Aviation in Arlington, Washington.

The team, which was announced as the winner of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) competition last month, will assemble the aircraft over the next two weeks.

Staff from Glasair and GAMA will oversee construction of the Sportsman, a metal and composite aircraft that seats four adults. The plane, which is sold as a kit, can be assembled with assistance in two weeks through Glasair’s  “Two Weeks to Taxi” program.

“We could not be more excited about this year’s winners,” GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce said. “The students worked hard after school and on weekends on their entry, and the principal chose to buy a more capable computer to allow the competition software to work. A note to GAMA from Principal Grant Hanevold said it all: ‘It was one of my fondest moments as a school principal. Thanks for providing this opportunity for my students, and for the generosity of your board. This competition, and ultimate victory, will be life-changing for my kids. I can’t thank you and the board enough for what you do, and for the positive impact you are making in the life of a kid.’”

Bunce added, “This story is exactly why GAMA and Build A Plane started this competition and why we are so passionate about it.”

GAMA member companies are sponsoring the team’s travel, lodging, meals, and visits to local aviation sites of interest, including the nearby Boeing facility in Everett, Wash., and the Museum of Flight. Glasair is also contributing two weeks of staff time to support the build.

“The build last summer was a wonderful opportunity for our staff to share the joy and craftsmanship of building an airplane with the students and their teachers,” Glasair President Nigel Mott said. “Our team has been looking forward to welcoming these students for months, and we can’t wait to see what they will learn and accomplish in the next two weeks.”

The competition attracted 79 entries from 33 states plus Washington, DC — nearly triple the number of applicants in 2013. Schools used “Fly to Learn” curricula and training, including software powered by X-Plane, to design and fly their own virtual airplanes. Each school modified a Glasair Sportsman airplane to fly from one airport to another, and was scored on how much payload the plane carried, how much fuel was used, and the time the flight took. Judges from GAMA’s engineering team selected the winning school, taking into consideration the design features based on what the students applied from the curriculum, as it relates to aerospace engineering principles.

“We are delighted to once again be a part of this wonderful program to bring aviation education to life as these students help build an airplane,” said Debbie Phillips, Executive Director of Build A Plane. “We know this experience will provide a wonderful foundation from which the students will hopefully develop a lifelong passion for general aviation and flying.”

The Sunrise Mountain High School team includes students Alberto Carlos Alvarado, Joshua Carlson, Kenneth Ellis, and Jose G. Rodriguez, Jr., teacher Thitiya Pathakkhinang, and advisors Reza Karamooz and John Kanuch.

Companies sponsoring the Aviation Design Build include:

  • BBA Aviation
  • Boeing
  • Embraer
  • GE Aviation
  • Gulfstream Aerospace Corp.
  • Hartzell Propeller, Inc.
  • Jeppesen
  • Jet Aviation
  • Lycoming Engines
  • Piper Aircraft, Inc.
  • Rockwell Collins, Inc.
  • Textron Aviation
  • Wipaire, Inc.


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