By John Cronin, EAA 743391
I was surprised, and honored, to see an article about my project teaching kids how to build an airplane (“Youth Aircraft Building Project Teaches Skills, Enthusiasm”, Members/Chapters in Action, EAA Sport Aviation, December 2020, page 114). Thank you! The reason for this article is a forum post I saw recently, and I’ve seen them before. It mentioned the empty feeling once a builder has finished their airplane. The shop is quiet and everything has been put away. I was thinking, “What a waste!” Why not teach kids how to build an airplane? You obviously have the experience and skills. You have the tools and space. You can start a new project and share your knowledge with the next generation. What’s stopping you? It’s fun!
Step One – The Airplane
It needs to be simple, small, and inexpensive. I went with the Mini-MAX EROS 1650. It’s all wood, single-seat, the plans are great, and so is the support group. The empennage kit is $463 and could take several months to build. Right there the kids are going to learn a lot. They are cutting and shaping the wood and drilling holes and gluing it together. They will soon see a full size sketch become an actual airplane part.
Step Two – Finding Your Students
I found a group on Facebook for area homeschoolers. Boy I hit a home run there. Homeschoolers are on their own schedule. They take classes whenever they want. This is different from public/private schools that have moved to online video classes during the pandemic. Look for true homeschoolers. You want to make sure you bring in interested students and not dead weight, so consider some sort of interview, even just a phone call to learn about them and to speak with the potential student. I asked for students between ages 10-18.
Step Three – Money
Hopefully, you have, or can obtain, some money to kick-start your program. A chapter member donated $600 to get our project started. We did a lot of fundraising, and support from the parents is vital. A local chocolate factory supports fundraising, so we bought chocolate bars. Obviously, they can be sold to family, friends, co-workers, etc. We also had permission from a local grocery supermarket to setup in the exit area. We had one table with the chocolate bars and another with a photo album of our work. Of course some kids were there also. People were interested and sometimes threw a donation in our donation jar. We made about $1,400 from that program alone. We also attended Chamber of Commerce events, again asking for donations, and we also made some little trinkets to sell.
Step Four – Legal Stuff
Use EAA templates for waiver, photo release, student, and volunteer sign-in sheet, etc. Students also need to take a test on tool safety which is remediated to 100 percent before they start work. Of course, you need to be in compliance with EAA’s youth protection policy.
Step Five – Scheduling
I recommend two students maximum per instructor at a time for one hour. You can then have another session, and then a 30-minute break before another sequence. My sessions are on Monday. When you have selected your students, and I would limit it to 12, you’ll have to find out what hours on what days everyone can attend. You can then work out the best day.
Step Six – Support
I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to my wife. She is the brains and energy behind fundraising, promoting our project, and working with parents. Our website is KidsBuildingPlanes.com. You can contact me from there. Get going!