Students across America are gaining hands-on experience in the basics of airplane mechanics, avionics, and the physics of flight, thanks to Build a Plane, a nonprofit corporation founded in 2003 that promotes aviation education by coordinating the donation of used aircraft to high schools across the United States.
“The idea behind the project is to tie together the practical and the scientific disciplines of aviation,” says Lyn Freeman, founder. “We want to make aviation education affordable for school districts and accessible to the next generation of pilots, engineers and mechanics. In every participating school so far, we’ve seen tremendous interest among students.”
Insurance company Avemco has been instrumental to the program’s success. Avemco donated its first airplane in October 2005, sending a wind-damaged Cessna 150 to John Burroughs High School in Burbank, Calif. Since then, Avemco has donated many additional airplanes to Build a Plane for school programs across the country.
“Our mission is to support initiatives that improve aviation safety, and the Build a Plane project fits perfectly within this mission,” said Jim Lauerman, Avemco’s executive vice president. “As it grows, the aviation industry will require thousands of additional maintenance and repair professionals. The investment we make in aviation education today will pay immense dividends in the future.”
Planes Avemco has given to the schools have been deemed non-airworthy for a variety of reasons. For example, the company recently donated 12 aircraft with saltwater damage from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. Although the planes will never fly again, they are in exceptional condition for study.
Pete Lee, whose department at Metro Tech-Aviation Career Campus in Oklahoma City received one of Avemco’s donated airplanes, says, “The airplane is exceeding our expectations. It was in pretty good shape considering the reported damage. The students who have been working on it are jazzed, to put it mildly.
“Different classes have used it— from corrosion control to control rigging and assembly to electrical systems. We are ecstatic with our good fortune.”
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