TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - They are learning to fly and spreading their wings outside of the classroom.
Nine students from various Tucson-area high schools are tinkering away on their own time, building a real airplane from a kit.
The group, known as Southern Arizona Teen Aviation Inc., is being guided by several retired professional pilots who helped form the organization. The mentors are all volunteers.
"They're all pretty dedicated to the whole thing. They want to see it through and see it done," said Alan Muhs, a mentor and co-founder of Southern Arizona Teen Aviation, talking about the students.
The all metal RV-12 airplane is being built from a kit purchased from Van's Aircraft Inc. The aircraft has a 100-horsepower engine that can carry two people at 120 mph.
"The students were first taught how to use the tools needed to build an airplane then given practice projects to work on. Their skills have improved tremendously and they largely work with little guidance from the experienced mentors that are always in attendance at the build sessions," Muhs said in a news release.
The students, consisting of sophomores, juniors, and seniors in high school, said they all have a common goal.
"Since we're all trying to get this plane built, and we all want it to be working so we can fly it, there's really no reason for anyone to be competing with each other. We all want to get it done," said Nicholas Gullo, a junior at Mountain View High School.
The nine students have worked in a private home workshop about two days a week for the past 15 months.
They also take field trips that allow them to fly real airplanes with the mentors, visit Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, and visit Lightning Aircraft West, among other activities.
"It's a bunch of kids who really love aviation," said Chase Cook, a senior at Ironwood Ridge High School. "It's different than school, where they're teaching you going along. Maybe you're sitting in classroom. This is just every day, hands on."
Cook will be attending the University of Arizona in the fall, but said he still plans to work alongside his peers to complete the plane.
Muhs said they expect to finish the work, with the plane ready to be flown, by December 2018. They expect to fly the airplane after it has passed FAA inspections.
Southern Arizona Teen Aviation, established in January 2017, is a local non-profit corporation that relies on donations. Its mission is to introduce high school students to possible careers in aviation, develop leadership skills, and provide experience flying and building airplanes.
They are looking to recruit new students to replace their graduating seniors and to start building their second airplane. Contact the group by sending an email to email@example.com if you are interested.