Gloucestershire students and their plane

Student-built plane takes off in Gloucestershire

First students participating in the Boeing-supported ‘Build a Plane’ project have taken off aboard the aircraft they’ve put together during the four and a half year undertaking.

The ultra-light two-seater, assembled from a kit provided by Boeing, lifted off from the Gloucerstershire airport on Wednesday, 19 March, after having gone through thorough testing making sure it is safe to carry passengers.

“It’s amazing,” said Anne Townsend, a member of the student management team behind the project “When it did its first test flight, they managed to do it so it came over our school and we were standing in the courtyard, looking up and we felt so proud.”

Though the demonstration flight only took a couple of minutes, the aircraft was said to be able to travel for up to four and half hours and to reach the maximum speed of 100 miles per hour with the pilot taking the passenger to up to 2000 feet.

Three schools from the Gloucestershire area were involved in the building project, initiated by Steve Berry, headmaster of the Marling School.

“The real strength of this project, at least for me, is that the students involved in it now really do understand how an aircraft flies and the need for precision in building parts for the aircraft,” Berry said.

“The project very well related what they have heard in science classes to actual real life.”

Apart from the Marling School, the Stroud School and Maidenhill School took part in the project.

The aircraft received a flying permit in July 2013 after more than 20 hours of test flying, all 50 members of the building team should now get the chance to take it up to the sky.

However, the demonstration at the Gloucestershire airport had to be stopped after only one flight as a minor oil leak was discovered.

Safety was a major concern throughout the process and every step was carefully observed by qualified professionals and members of the Light Aircraft Association or the Royal Aeronautical Society.

“The aircraft we have here was deliberately designed to be relatively simple to assemble but also to be safe to assemble,” explained Ian McNeil, programme manager at Boeing who provided the kit, worth £30,000.

“The kit is a complete aircraft in a box, the largest box contains the engine, all the struts of the airframe, the undercarriage and obviously the fabric covering. The kit itself is deliberately chosen to be simple to build and not requiring any detailed machining knowledge of the students doing the assembly."

Throughout the process, students assembling various parts of the aircraft were working in groups of two, supervised by a qualified volunteer.

“One of the main points of the project was to learn to tell immediately if we thought we might have done something wrong,” Townsend said. “We always had to talk to our supervisors to help us rectify the problem, even though it might have meant replacing an entire part to ensure the aircraft was safe.”

According to Gordana Micic, the coordinator of the School Build a Plane Programme for the Royal Aeronautical Society, six teams from across the UK have been building their own planes over the past nearly five years with the Gloucestershie blue G-SBAP Boeing plane being the first to take students to the sky aboard the aircraft.

The programme is part of an initiative of Boeing and the Royal Aeronautical Society aiming to encourage young people’s interest in science, engineering and technology.

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