August 1, 2013 - Forget about sleeping in on Saturdays. For a group of Oregon teens, Saturday was a workday. In fact, the group has spent almost two years working on Saturdays to build a light-sport aircraft.
Their work paid off, however, when the students - and the Van's RV-12 they built - arrived at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2013. It's parked near the Homebuilders Hangar.
Students in Project Teen Flight, working in conjunction with the Airway Science for Kids organization, built their first RV-12 from 2009-2011, said Aric Krause, who worked on that first airplane as a student and was one of the mentors on the one just completed. The goal of the program is to get kids interested in aviation.
The youth estimated it took them about 4,500 hours to finish the latest RV-12. Several put in 750 hours individually.
"In the beginning, we were not skilled at building at all," said Paige Quintana, 16.
"I knew some basics, such as how to pull a rivet gun, but that was about it," added Amy Krueger, 16.
Most cited the fiberglass work as one of the most challenging parts of the building project. "It's just so tedious and repetitive," Jeff Koeber, 17, explained.
But the group said they learned much more than how to build an airplane through the process.
"I really learned patience," Charlie Arnell, 16, said. "There are times you can't do a lot while you wait for other people to finish their jobs."
Krueger said she learned how to persevere. "During those slow times, it is hard to stay focused and keep going forward."
The students signed up for the program for different reasons. For Koeber, it was a chance to learn new skills. Arnell said that was part of his reason, too, especially since he hopes to build his own airplane someday.
Bryce Isaacson, 14, said he got the aviation bug once he flew on a commercial jet. The Teen Flight program allowed him to build on that interest.
The program also encourages students to fly. All have flight time in the first airplane that Project Teen Flight built, with the exception of Isaacson, who is too young to solo.
In addition, five of the seven said they had gone on Young Eagles flights.
Quintana, however, became the first to fly in TeenFlight 2, which was just finished. She flew to Oshkosh with an instructor, logging 17 hours in the air. Inman will fly home in the plane, also with an instructor. Both said they are close to earning their private pilot certificates.
Quintana said flying into Oshkosh was surreal. "When I was coming over Ripon, the tower kept telling planes to rock their wings and I kept asking my instructor if they meant me. But when I did it ... they said 'good rock.'"
Once landing at Wittman, the tower instructed her to land on the orange dot. "I landed right on it," she said. "Hearing 'Welcome to Oshkosh' was really great."
Inman said they are selling the plane so they can afford another plane to keep the program going. While some of the group will be graduating, others plan to stay on and mentor the new youth coming in. "The whole program is meant to be self-sustaining," Inman said.
The program is also meant to help develop future aviators. And it appears to be working.
The Teen Flight members said they plan to study aeronautical engineering or other aviation-related majors in college, while others want to get their A&P certificate or private pilot certificate. Some say they plan to build their own plane, or work as a military pilot.
While their careers may take different paths, they were unanimous when asked what advice they would give other teens.
"Go for it," they all said at once.