The builders of two Glasair Sportsman airplanes traveled to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh along with both of their airplanes. While this might seem a normal situation for the average kit-airplane builder, this group consists of two teams of four high school students, their teacher and a chaperone, winners of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) and Build A Plane Science, Technology, Engineering and Math aviation design challenge competition. The teams—from Canby High School in Canby, Minn., and Saline High School in Saline, Mich.—and their airplanes are at the GAMA/Build A Plane exhibit (299).
GAMA president Pete Bunce praised the GAMA member companies that donated financial resources, equipment, time and materials to the project. Kit manufacturer Glasair Aviation donated two weeks of staff time so the teams could build their airplanes at the Glasair factory in the Two Weeks To Taxi program. Donations also covered round-trip airfare and expenses for the teams’ travel to Glasair’s headquarters in Arlington, Wash. “There is nowhere on planet you can build such a high-quality airplane in such a short time,” Bunce said. Jeppesen sponsored the teams’ Oshkosh trip. Twenty-five companies, including aircraft and avionics manufacturers, component suppliers, software developers and distributors, sponsored the entire design challenge competition.
The team members helping build the airplanes got to experience every aspect of building, Bunce said, “everything from how to repair fiberglass to bending fuel lines and understanding torsion and sheer on bolts. As they got to the 12th day, they were able to fly the first aircraft. The FAA inspector who inspected the Glasairs said the riveting was some of the best he’d ever seen, according to Bunce. “It was truly fantastic.”
Glasair was purchased last July by Fang Tieji, chairman of China’s Jilin Hanxing Group. “We general aviation manufacturers want to see GA grow in China,” Bunce said. “Mr. Fang is involved in that. This will help GA grow in China. It helps bring our countries together and helps tie our countries together. Our commitment as manufacturers is to help them as much as possible to get the Chinese government to open airspace [for GA].”