MERIDEN – Friday was a great day for flying, especially for 24 Wilcox Tech students and members of the “Teens to Flight” program who built an RV-12 airplane.
The Vans RV-12, built under the guidance of the local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association, initially took flight on May 14.
The aircraft, which took about four and a half years to build, was part of EAA’s Give Flight Program, a project launched in 2015 with the goal of assisting five chapters to build and launch an aircraft, and form a flying club around the project.
Test Pilot and Chapter Mentor Mark Scott took the maiden flight in May and flew the RV-12 again as part of Friday’s press conference at Meriden Markham Airport. The students built 90 to 95 percent of the plane with adults watching.
Scott, who organized and oversaw the project, went in the air four different times in an hour and a half on Friday. The recently retired Sikorsky engineer said he was helped early in his career and this was his way to give back.
“In 2015, we decided we wanted to do something for aviation, so why not build a plane?” Scott said. “I had built one before. So we did it.”
The students met every Monday for two hours and on one weekend day for three hours at a building at the municipal airport that the city allowed them to use.
The project took about six to 12 months longer than expected, mainly due to a certification issue.
Scott said the plane, which seats two, rides like a small sports car.
“It was more fun to fly than I thought it would be,” Scott said. “It feels nice to get it done. It went well. I talked to the kids...They can tell their friends and potential employees that they helped build a plane.”
“To some people, building a plane seems audacious but it’s not,” the Bethany resident added. “If you follow instructions and learn from other people it can be done. If they can build an airplane as a teenager, they can do bigger things in their adult lives.”
Aviation Commission board member and former city councilor Cathy Battista made opening remarks on Friday.
Scott also spoke as well as Meriden Markham airport manager Constance Castillo and performer Joby Rogers.
Rogers, a Michael Jackson impersonator, helped raise thousands of dollars for the project with a concert in Meriden.
Tyler Stout, who graduated from Wethersfield High School this year, is a member of the “Teens to Flight” program. His father, a teacher at Wilcox Technical High School, served as a liaison between Teens to Flight and the school.
“I’ve really enjoyed the hard work and years of time I’ve put into the project,” Stout said. “Seeing the plane fly today was great and it really made all our hard work feel validated. Being with the program from the beginning, seeing the plane start from just a wooden crate and seeing where it is now, at the end of the project…It’s also a great image of what a group of people, especially of mixed generations, races and genders can accomplish when we put our mind and efforts together.”
Stout is a sophomore at Central Connecticut State University, where he studies mechanical engineering with a concentration in aerospace.