The Boeing and Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) Schools Build a Plane Challenge aims to motivate young people in the areas of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

It also encourages young people’s awareness of the aerospace sector, demonstrates its economic importance and offers them a wide array of related career paths.

The project provides young people in UK secondary schools with the opportunity to build a real light aircraft from a kit and gives them hands-on experience of the aircraft build process, understanding the scientific and engineering principles behind flight, as well as developing commercial skills such as project management, problem-solving, team work and communication, with the ultimate aim of taking a flight in the aircraft once it is complete.

The Light Aircraft Association is playing a pivotal role in the project, training 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 are also on-hand to act in a mentoring capacity during the build process and a variety of visits have been conducted in support of the broader educational benefits associated with the project.

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.

Schools will be encouraged to bid for building the aircraft kits as a consortium to enable as wide a participation as possible and will also be asked to play a key role in disseminating the project to other young people in their communities including under-represented groups and those in disadvantaged areas. The funds raised from the sale of the aircraft will be reinvested in the project, enabling other schools to take part in the scheme.

The BBC has covered the first flight by Yateley in April 2013 and the student flights by Marling in March 2014.