Composite Construction
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Course length: 2 days

General Information
The Composite Construction course will present basic composite building techniques. This two day course is an intensive "hands-on" workshop discussing tools needed, safety aspects of composites, moldless construction to include "hot-wiring", bonding methods for composite kitplanes, etc. A large amount of time will be spent learning the basics of composite construction.

The following is a brief outline of the course content:
A thorough discussion of what comprises a composite to include various cores, reinforcement materials, and resins will be given. Fillers and their applications are discussed. This course, like all SportAir courses, presents the safety issues involved with this type of construction.

The course concentrates largely on epoxies and their use in aircraft projects. Extensive hands on training and practice will be the mainstay of this class. We'll start out with a detailed classroom presentation on all aspects of composite materials and the tools required. The "lab" portion of the course begins with the construction of a composite sandwich panel to illustrated molded and moldless construction. Then, a canard airfoil shape is fabricated using hot wire techniques and moldless composite sandwich construction methods. We'll continue by fabricating a joint using standard laminate bonding techniques. Free form molding is discussed and you will also make a simple model and molded part using commonly available materials. Inspection, repairs and hard points are discussed. Finishing techniques of composite surfaces are discussed and demonstrated. Vacuum bagging techniques are presented and demonstrated as well. An overview of constructing molds and parts is also presented.

This course is very in-depth in its scope. A high degree of confidence in the composite area will be gained by the end of the two-day period. The class includes all materials and a very concise and informative workbook along with a completion certificate to proudly display.

Do I need to be an EAA member to attend?
No, the workshops are open to anyone interested in learning the skills necessary to build their own aircraft.

Can I take more than one workshop at a location on one weekend?
You are only able to take one workshop each weekend. Each workshop is a full two days in length.

When I complete a course will I be able to do all the related work on my project unassisted?
Since each workshop is only two days in length, it is impossible to teach you everything you need to know. We do tell you where to get further assistance and we certainly provide you with the confidence necessary to begin your project. The fundamentals are taught and you will need to go home and practice.

How much time is actually spent doing "hands-on" activities?
The majority of the workshop time is spent doing "hands-on" activities. Be sure to wear your work clothes. In most courses, about 25% of the total time will be spent in lecture and discussion.

What are the hours of the workshops?
Registration for the workshop begins promptly at 7:30 a.m. on day one with the workshops beginning promptly at 8 a.m. Day One activities conclude about 5 p.m. Day two is 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m, but we’ve been known to continue until 5pm as needed on Day two.

Do I need to bring any tools with me?
No, all tools and materials are provided.

Can I purchase materials at the workshops?
No, however you will receive a discount sheet from Aircraft Spruce & Specialty that will allow you to order materials at a discount with complimentary shipping.

Will I have time for lunch?
Yes, 1 hour is scheduled for lunch each day.

How many people will be in each class?
We try to limit class size to an instructor/student ratio of no more than 16 students per instructor. The welding classes are limited to 12 students due to tooling requirements.

How can I find out what hotels are available in the area?
The best source is Google Maps, Expedia or other travel site. They have the most up to date information and special pricing

I would like to bring my spouse or building partner. Is that possible?
Yes, we encourage family and friends participation. Each person attending the course with you must be a registered and paid participant. There are limited seats in each course and each participant must be enrolled at the current course fee. There have been questions in the past about bringing along a spouse, family member, or friend to observe or audit the course with you. We’ve found over the many years we have presented these courses that unpaid observers quickly become hands on participants, which is unfair to other paid participants of the course, which is why we require all to be enrolled. If you have a specific question about this policy, please feel free to email us at sportair@eaa.org

I would like to bring my child. Is that possible?
Children 16 or older are allowed to enroll and participate when accompanied by a parent that is also registered for the course.

Can I pay for the workshop the day I arrive?
No. We must receive payment prior to the workshop. In the past we have experienced a number of "no-shows" from people who have not prepaid. If you need to cancel, a full refund will be provided as long as you notify us at least seven calendar days prior to the workshop.

What if I have to cancel my enrollment?
A full refund will be provided as long as you notify us seven calendar days or more prior to the workshop. These workshops are specialized courses with limited attendance to enhance your learning experience. If you cancel within seven calendar days of the workshop a $100 cancellation fee will be assessed. A “no show” will not be entitled to a refund.

How will I know where the workshop is located?
Workshop addresses and map locations can be found in our information packets. In addition, we will have signs directing you to the workshop.

Do I take anything home with me?
All courses provide you with a detailed workbook and a certificate of completion. In several courses you will build a small project to take with you.

Do I receive a workbook?
Yes, a workbook is provided for each workshop.

Are the instructors volunteers or professionals?
All of our instructors have high qualifications. They are professionals in their field and have years of experience.

What if I am undecided about building an airplane?
We recommend that you take the Fundamentals of Aircraft Building workshop. This workshop will give you "hands-on" experience in all types of aircraft construction.

Can I get credit for IA renewal by attending your workshop?
Several FAA district offices have given credit for the workshop. It depends upon the local FSDO.

Will I learn to weld aluminum in the gas welding class?
Because of the complexities we do not demonstrate aluminum welding.

Can I bring my own welding torch?
Yes, we encourage you to do this.

What type of covering system is used in the fabric covering class?
The Poly-Fiber system is used. However, nitrate and butyrate dope is also discussed.

How much time will be spent vacuum bagging in the composite class?
A very limited time is spent on vacuum bagging. The technique is demonstrated and is enough to familiarize you with the procedure.

Do you teach us how to finish a composite airplane?
Yes, we discuss all aspects of composite finishing.

What spraying system is used in the fabric workshop?
Depending on the facility, we may spray some of the fabric coatings. If this is not possible, spraying technique will be covered. We use primarily the HLVP systems.

May I bring my own project to the class to work on?
We do not encourage people to bring their own project. We have a set curriculum that includes a project that we have designed. If we had separate items to work with it would only create confusion for the rest of the class.

Does the electrical course teach me how to install avionics and antennas?
Yes, in addition to basic wiring of the electrical systems.

I’m designing my own aircraft, do any of the workshops cover basic design issues?
No, structural design will not be covered in any of the workshops.

Why do you not have the workshops in more locations?
The EAA SportAir Workshops are presented as a self sustaining program of the EAA. It is very difficult to find suitable locations. We ship everything we need for the classes in large wooden crates. It is very expensive for us to travel. We try to schedule classes only where we can be assured of a large attendance.

I would like to host a SportAir Workshop. What are the requirements?
Finding new facilities are the biggest challenge for this program. EAA is a non-profit organization and the SportAir Workshops are presented as a self sustaining program. It is very expensive for us to take this program on the road. We try to schedule classes only where we can be assured of an attendance cover operational costs.

Minimum facility requirements are as follows:

  • Location must be in or close to a sizable metro area
  • Forklift rated at 1,000 pounds for loading/unloading large crates
  • Enough space to hold at least 4 workshops with 16 students simultaneously
  • Adequate lighting
  • Bathroom facilities
  • Willingness to help grow grassroots aviation

If this sounds like something you could host, we would love to hear from you at sportair@eaa.org or 1-800-967-5746.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
"Really fantastic course all around. The right amount of information was presented in an effective and efficient way. Can’t wait to come to my next course!”
— Trent S.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
"Mark Forss did an outstanding job. I had a very good time learning all the techniques he taught. The hands-on exercises were perfect to demonstrate and illustrate the points from the lectures. Well-paced with ample time for questions and answers. Thanks for all the knowledge!"
— John K.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
"This was an excellent course. I would recommend this class to anyone interested in composite construction. Thank you!”
— Neil R.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
"The hand- on approach makes the learning stick and go to a deeper level than just a lecturer.”
— David R.





Day One
  • Introduction
  • History and Evolution of Composites
  • Overview of Composite Structures
  • Advantages and Disadvantages
  • Resins
  • Reinforcements
  • Core Materials
  • Fillers
  • Methods of Construction
  • Processes and Tools
  • Post Curing
  • Assembly of Parts
  • Introduction to Vacuum Bagging
  • Fabrication of Sandwich Panel
  • Review of Sandwich Panel Construction Q&A

Break for Lunch

  • Hot wiring introduction
  • Fabrication of Canard Section
  • In depth of Assembly of Parts
  • Cutting Trimming Shaping
  • Prep and Bonding
  • Fastening
  • Fillets and Joints
  • Fabrication of “T” Joint Project

Day Two

  • Completion of Canard Project
  • Creating Molded Parts Discussion
  • Fabrication of a Molded Part
  • Filling and Finishing Discussion
  • Inspection and Repairs
  • Suppliers and Resources
  • Wrap Up with Final Thoughts and Discussion with Q&A
  • Completion of Course with award of Completion Certificates

Scott Vanderveen Scott Vanderveen is the owner of Pro-Composites, Inc, Scott provides builder support and plans for the Vision Aircraft. Scott was also been an instructor in the EAA SportAir Workshops series since 2009.

John Brecher John Brecher Started working on airplanes in 1959 as a line and maint person at the Pekin, Ill airport. Got private pilot’s lic in 1971. Been an EAA member for nearly 40 years. Built and partnered on 6 experimental aircraft. Holds an FAA A&P license and taught FAA A&P students at the Aviation Institute of Maint in Kansas City and Dallas. Perform as a EAA Tech Counselor for Ch 958 in San Marcos, Tx.

Mark Forss Mark Forss is a Lifetime EAA Member and has been a part of EAA staff since 2001. He’s directed the EAA SportAir Workshop programs since 2002. Over the past 15 years Mark has taught hundreds of EAA members the crafts of Sheet Metal, Composite and Fundamentals of Aircraft Construction at workshops around the country with the EAA SportAir programs. He’s a Private Pilot with single and multi engine ratings, is part owner of Sonex #450 and likes to build things in his home shop. Prior to EAA, Mark worked in the field of Industrial Design and was an Industrial Model Maker, creating full scale models, molds and prototype products for many Fortune 500 companies. He’s also worked for a time at Sonex Aircraft, and during AirVenture oversees the Oshkosh Forum and Workshop presentations.

COMPOSITE GALLERY
Composite Construction