Maiden flight of student-built aircraft is a soaring success

By General Aviation News Staff

DENVER — Officials at Wings Over the Rockies are celebrating the successful first flight of an RV-12 built by students as part of the museum’s education program, Wings Aerospace Pathways.

During the March 13, 2022, maiden flight, Wings’ President and CEO Major General John Barry, USAF (Ret) successfully took off and landed three times in the RV-12. Safety Observer Pat Claar accompanied Barry on the flight.

Wings Aerospace Pathways (WAP), a program that has been provided by the non-profit for several years, offers hands-on learning that allows students in grades 6-12 to immerse themselves in the aerospace industry.

Thanks to the support of the James C Ray Foundation and Wings donors, high school students have been hard at work building the RV-12 for the last four years, building more than 80% of the aircraft themselves with adult supervision, according to officials. Dave Yuskewich, WAP CTE coordinator and instructor, has been leading the aircraft assembly with Wings volunteers and students since the beginning of the project.

“There have been several students on the build from the beginning, and I’ve immensely enjoyed watching their progress over the years, as well as the new kids who have also been involved,” said Yuskewich. “They have been thrilled to watch this plane come together and couldn’t be prouder to unveil the finished product.”

Yuskewich first introduced the aircraft to the students as a completely disassembled kit. The students have since turned that kit into a fully functioning aircraft, applying knowledge learned from their WAP studies and marking many milestones along the way, including a successful engine start, taxi test, airworthiness inspection, and flight. These new skills are well suited to provide these students with great career opportunities in the years ahead, officials noted.

“With the nation’s second-largest aerospace economy, Colorado’s industry is a great future destination for jobs for these students, and we couldn’t be happier to be a part of getting them prepared at such a young age,” said Barry. “The determination and responsibility demonstrated by the students on this project has been very rewarding for all involved. We are so proud of the hard work of every student, past and present, that has helped this plane come together, and salute the staff and volunteers that have led the aircraft assembly.”

Thanks to this experience, many of the students are already envisioning themselves in careers as mechanics, engineers, or pilots, officials added.

“I feel like I’m one of the luckiest kids ever to be a part of this,” said student Ella Smith.

Wings Over the Rockies is a Colorado-based non-profit organization dedicated to educating and inspiring all people about aviation, utilizing the Air & Space Museum in Denver’s historic Lowry neighborhood to preserve the past and the Exploration of Flight Center at Centennial Airport to focus on the present and future, according to officials.

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