Airline industry giant, Airbus Americas, Inc. has been partnering with aviation curriculum non-profit TangoFlight to build Van’s RV-12 aircraft and to build the lives and character of students. The Airbus Americas pavilion contains images of present and future airliners, but it is the diminutive RV-12 tied down outside that is drawing much attention. This well-built aircraft was constructed by high-school students in the Wichita, Kansas school district with the financial support of Airbus.
While student build programs are not unheard of, the Airbus-TangoFlight partnership goes an interesting and important step farther. Over 30 Airbus engineers, from the line structural engineers to the Vice President of Engineering, all contribute their time to personally travel to two Wichita high schools to provide construction assistance and personal mentoring. When the RV is completed, students are given the opportunity to fly the craft they constructed. Airbus and TangoFlight are currently in the process of constructing two RV-12s at Maize High School and North High School in Wichita, Kansas.
Vice President of Engineering, John O’Leary relates one story that typifies the lessons learned. He personally assisted in an RV-12 build and, upon completion, was giving flights to each of the students. He remembers questioning one student about the aerodynamics involved is a stall and receiving a fairly wishy washy answer, indicating that the student did not really know what happens in a stall. Once in the air, John led the student through the entire stall sequence, from airspeed reduction, to buffet, to the break and the student’s eyes widened with her new found personal knowledge. That same student is now in the engineering program at Wichita State University.
Talking with these engineers at AirVenture, it becomes apparent that this is not just a corporate public relations program, it is a personal commitment to the future of students and aviation.