On 12 April the Royal Aeronautical Society and Boeing held a celebration event at Farnborough Airport to mark the first flight of the Schools Build A Plane project - a pioneering aerospace STEM intiative. VIDEO interview with young people & test pilot. [caption id="attachment_8009" align="alignnone" width="375"] Inspiring young people to reach for the sky (Andrew Smith photography)[/caption] On 12 April the Royal Aeronautical Society and sponsor Boeing held a celebration event at Farnborough Airport, UK, to mark the first flight of the Schools Build-a-plane (SBAP) aircraft - a RANS Coyote II. This aircraft was built by school children in their spare time from a homebuilt kit and is now flying ahead of a permit to fly. The SBAP project is a STEM intitiative to help encourage maths, engineering and an interest in aerospace and aviation among young people. Six schools are now involved in the project, with Yateley School in Hampshire being the first to complete and fly its aircraft. (A full press release can be found here). Once the Yateley School aircraft receives its permit to fly, students will create a marketing plan and sell the aircraft off to help fund new kits for other schools to join the scheme. (Currently six schools are building aircraft). [caption id="attachment_8011" align="alignnone" width="376"] The young people from Yateley School next to their aircraft.[/caption] Check out this video which features an  interview with Grace and Luke from Yatelely School, Light Aircraft Association pilot John Michie, and footage of the aircraft flying on the day.

The bigger picture

[caption id="attachment_8012" align="alignnone" width="398"] Take-off from Farnborough on 12 April.[/caption] There is no doubt from the video above that the students enjoyed their hands-on experience with working in a team to build a real flying aircraft. The fact that they will now all get to fly in their creation is also a huge incentive. However, this STEM intiative addresses an important fact - the pressing need for engineers and STEM graduates in the UK. Currently it is estimated that Britain may need to double the number of STEM graduates according to the Royal Academy of Engineering. However what has changed today is the realisation that this shortfall could partly be addressed by apprenticeships. The SBAP project then, with hands-on building techniques, basic skills and teaching teamwork in an airworthiness culture is thus ideal for giving young people taste of modern, quality apprenticeships. Interestingly, too, the SBAP  intiative is also not just about engineering - it brings in commerical and business awareness, as the students have to market the aircraft to potential buyers and promote it. In a sense, it is perhaps closer to an aerospace 'The Apprentice' business teamwork project. The project also provides another spin-off, in that since 9/11, the opportunities to sit in the cockpit of an airliner, let alone any aircraft have drastically declined. This light aircraft, then provides a perfect small exhibit to take to events, shows and exhibitions to inspire other young people. Already over 2,000 children have sat in the cockpit of G-YTLY and G-SBAP, the first two SBAP aircraft. Additionally, the RAeS is addressing the apprenticeship needs by having recently introduced  a new Apprentice grade for Members.

Tim Robinson
19 April 2013