Student Plane Build Program

Student Samantha DiMino and project manager Jack Barry work on the RV-12iS during the pandemic. Masks are no longer required at the Manchester (N.H.) School of Technology.

A highlight of the Aviation Museum’s educational outreach is our high school student plane-building program.

In 2019, we launched this innovative program with two partners. Joining us was the Manchester (N.H.) School of Technology, a public career and technical high school in Manchester, N.H., and Tango Flight, a Texas-based educational non-profit specializing in student plane-building programs.

At the time, our plane-building partnership was only the fourth of its kind in the country! In 2024, more than 40 similar programs have sprouted across the nation.

Students, faculty, and mentors: In the program, students work with school faculty and volunteer mentors to assemble a kit-based two-seat RV-12iS light sport aircraft.

Designed as a project intended for high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors, the student plane-building program gives young people an unparalleled opportunity to take STEM-based learning and apply it in a hands-on workshop environment.

Our program’s first student-built aircraft was completed and first flew in August 2022. Since then, students have been working on a second aircraft, which is expected to be completed sometime in 2024.

Raising the funds: To launch the program, the Aviation Museum raised $350,000 in start-up funds from businesses, government agencies, foundations, and individuals.

Now that the program is established, the program is self-funding, with no direct cost to local taxpayers or families other than the use of school facilities and staff/administration.

Program costs are covered by a funding model that calls for the finished aircraft to be sold on the open market, with subsequent plane-builds paid for by the proceeds.

As seen in Manchester, the program brings many benefits. It inspires young people to work together on a complicated and demanding project. It opens pathways to careers in aviation and aerospace. It gives students the chance to work alongside experienced professionals. It creates opportunities for a school to develop family and community support, and gives the school a high-profile project in which all stake-holders may take pride.

Plus it’s fun, because students get to build a plane!

And now, the next phase: With the Manchester program established, the Aviation Museum is sought another a high school to host a second plane-building program to start in the 2024-25 school year.

In the fall of 2023, we circulated a Request for Proposals to more than 100 schools in our service area. The program was open to any school enrolling students of high school age, including public, private, parochial, or charter schools.

In December 2023, we announced two new high school programs.

In September 2024, students at Lebanon High School in Lebanon, N.H. will begin a plane-building program they’re calling ‘Take Flight.’

And a year later, in September 2025, students at Farmington High School in Farmington, N.H. will start their own plane-building program.

If you’re curious about how we went about selecting these districts, a copy of the original RFP is posted below. And if your school district is interested in starting a student plane-building project, let us know!

Contact Jeff Rapsis, executive director, Aviation Museum of N.H., at (603) 669-4820 ext. 401 or by email at jrapsis@nhahs.org.