Boeing and the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) created the Schools Build-a-Plane Challenge in 2009 to inspire young people across the UK in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through a hands-on build challenge.
The project provides young people in UK secondary schools with the opportunity to build a real RANS Coyote II light aircraft from a kit and gives them experience of the aircraft build process and an understanding the scientific and engineering principles behind flight. The challenge also encourages the development of commercial skills such as project management, problem-solving, team work marketing and communication. The challenge culminates in the aircraft being certified to fly and the students who helped build the plane take to the skies in their finished product.
The Light Aircraft Association plays a pivotal role in the project, mentoring the school children involved, as well as ensuring the build conforms to engineering regulations and flight certifications. Boeing experts as well and regional branch members of the RAeS volunteer to guide the teams during the build process.
The programme was launched as a national competition in early 2009. There are currently six schools involved in the Schools Build-a-Plane Challenge, each one building an aircraft: Yateley School (Hampshire), Marling School (Gloucestershire), Bridge Learning Campus (Bristol), Ercall Wood Technology College (Shropshire), North East Wolverhampton Academy (West Midlands) and Ernesford Grange Community School (West Midlands).
Yateley School celebrated the first flight of the project in April 2013. The first students to fly in their own aircraft were from Marling School in March 2014. The BBC covered the first flight by Yateley in April 2013 and the student flights by Marling in March 2014. Both these aircraft have now been sold to private buyers and the income reinvested into the project. In October 2015 Ercall Wood Technology College’s plane G-GWFT took to the skies as the third plane completed and certified to fly. G-ECCA, Ernesford Grange Community School’s plane, recently completed its first public flight at Coventry Airport on 18 May 2017 and has also been successfully sold to a private buyer.
“People are always surprised that we have actually built the plane ourselves. It has been a pleasure to be part of it and I am very proud of what we have achieved,” said student John Penswick, from Ercall Wood Technology College.
“Boeing is in its 100 year of business and in order for us to continue shaping the world of aerospace with our customers, partners and suppliers, we all need a new generation of talented engineers,” said Sir Michael Arthur, Boeing’s President, UK and Ireland. “For us to sustain the highly-qualified pipeline of talent in the UK aerospace industry we work hard to inspire young people to take an interest in science, technology and aviation through engaging projects like the Schools Build-a-Plane Challenge.”
For more information about the Challenge, including how to purchase the remaining aeroplanes once their build is complete, visit http://aerosociety.com/Careers-Education/buildaplane.
Please note that the Royal Aeronautical Society is not accepting applications from schools for further build projects. Contact the Royal Aeronautical Society for information about other school programmes on offer.