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Glasair helps students build planes

Glasair Aviation technician Ben Watson holds the aircraft parts steady while Julia Garner of Saline High School in Michigan does the work on June 21. - Kirk Boxleitner
Glasair Aviation technician Ben Watson holds the aircraft parts steady while Julia Garner of Saline High School in Michigan does the work on June 21.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

ARLINGTON — Glasair Aviation in Arlington is teaming up with the General Aviation Manufacturers Association to provide a unique hands-on learning experience for high school students from Michigan and Minnesota from June 17-30, as the students build a pair of Sportsman aircraft in Glasair’s “Two Weeks to Taxi” program.

Chris Strachan, director of marketing and sales for Glasair, noted that the Arlington-based company had undertaken a similar venture a couple of years ago, albeit with far fewer students, which is but one reason that he deemed the scope of this program to be unprecedented for Glasair.

“It’s a much bigger format,” Strachan said. “I’ve always been for supporting the youth — I’m part of the EAA Young Eagles program — and I see this as a way of giving them a different perspective on technology. They have to do 51 percent of the builds themselves, and doing that work allows them to feel empowered and take ownership over what they’re building. We tell them that these planes need to be able to fly for the next 50 years, and the people who fly in them are laying their lives on these kids’ work, so if they don’t feel right about anything, they should check it and do it again.”

GAMA President Peter Bunce noted that students from 27 schools in 22 states entered the “Build A Plane” aircraft design contest to be eligible for this opportunity, for which he thanked Glasair.

“The biggest surprise has been how great the guys on the Glasair factory floor have been with these kids,” Bunce said. “They’re not trained to be teachers, but they’ve got such a good way with the kids that they’re able to get them focused on the tasks at hand while they’re still having fun. These kids are working long days, but they’re motivated and ready to dive right in.”

Julia Garner of Saline High School and Kyle Labombarbe of Lincoln High School both hail from Michigan and had never been to the Pacific Northwest before. They agreed that the lessons they’ve learned at Glasair could not be replicated in a classroom.

“I’ve known since my freshman year that I wanted to be a mechanical engineer, but this puts the problem solving in a different perspective,” Garner said. “I never expected I’d build a plane.”

“Everything has to be of the highest grade,” Labombarbe said. “Everything has to be locked in and checked twice.”

 

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