Sheet Metal Basics
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Course length: 2 days

This two-day course is designed to help you discover that you really can build or restore your own airplane. This sheet metal boot camp course, only offered in Oshkosh, WI, was created to give you the ultimate experience in learning to build or restore your airplane.

The following is a brief outline of the two-day course. Day one starts off with a discussion of the basics of sheet metal construction. The basics of sheet metal identification are discussed including the different designations of aluminum and their applications. Rivet identification is discussed in-depth so you can understand the applications of various rivet types.

Then it’s off to the workshop to construct a practice riveting project. Each student will learn how to layout, drill, deburr, dimple, countersink and drive rivets. Each tool will be discussed and demonstrated. Both universal and flush rivets will be used. Regardless of how well a student rivets, each student will drill out and replace a series of rivets.

In the afternoon of day one, you and another student will work as a team to construct an airfoil kit. This kit is a small section of a wing, which will develop the skills you need for aircraft sheet metal work. The project simulates all of the aspects of sheet metal construction that you will encounter in building a sheet metal aircraft.

The airfoil section will be completed on the second day with the installation of an inspection door. Each project will be reviewed and evaluated by the instructor so that you can identify aircraft quality work.

Course size is limited to 16 students per instructor to insure individualized instruction

This course is recommended for anyone building a sheet metal kit aircraft such as an RV, Murphy, Zenith, Sonex, etc.

The cost of the course includes all materials and an informative workbook for you to keep. You will also receive a diploma to display. At the end of this course you will have the confidence level necessary to begin a sheet metal kit project or to make repairs.

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.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
"Enjoyed a very educational sheet metal course! The hands-on projects were perfect to learn the necessary skills. Perhaps offering additional advanced projects for those who finish early would be the only recommendation."

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
"Great course. I was looking for a refresher for my 40+-year-old A&P and this fit the bill. Renewed my skills and gave me the confidence for sheet metal repairs. Thank you."
— Dave G.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
"Very good class. Project covered many aspects of metal works. Instructor is very good and knowledgeable. Now I have the confidence to move forward with my project."
— P.H.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
"Excellent experience! I had some sheet metal training in 1991, but have not touched it since then so this was a great refresher. I thoroughly enjoyed the class and have high regards for the instructor and the projects we created. Using the different skills and tools was great. Having a hands-on experience was much better than watching a video or reading about it. I will definitely attend another Sport-Air Workshop."
— Brian R.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
"Knowledgeable and excellent instructor. His explanations were short but thorough. It was a very instructive program."
— Frank K.

Day One

  • Introduction
  • Safety
  • Selecting Kits
  • Setting Up Shop
  • Tools
  • Plans and Instructions
  • Prep and Layout
  • Drilling
  • Pre Assembly
  • Final Assembly
  • Riveting
  • Practice Project
  • Demos and One On One Instruction

Day Two

  • Basic Forming
  • Other Tools
  • Wing Section Project
  • Demos and One On One Instruction
  • Painting and Corrosion
  • Review
  • Resources

Ed McGowin Like many homebuilt aircraft enthusiasts, Ed McGowin began building and flying model airplanes at an early age. He became a pilot in 1979 and began building his RV-6A in 1993, which he has flown to numerous locations around the country. Ed joined the SportAir team in 2000 and was initially involved in our weeklong RV empennage build program, in which he helped over 300 homebuilders get their RV project started. He has assisted in over 11 RV aircraft builds, and has been teaching the SportAir Sheet Metal and RV Assembly courses for the past 17 years. He recently retired from Coca Cola as a Plant Engineer, and lives in the Atlanta area.

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.

Jim Scott Jim Scott is an A&PIA with over 40 years of aircraft building and maintenance experience. He is the owner of Aircore Aviation in Arlington WA, a maintenance shop that specializes in Light Sport and Experimental aircraft inspection, maintenance, repair and building. He is also an Authorized Rotax Repair Center for the NW. Jim is a pilot and aircraft owner and has been an EAA member for 36 years.

Jim Scott As an EAA member since 1981, when he became a private pilot, Robert Koehler has been involved in the sheet metal workshops at AirVenture since the early 2000’s. In 2006, he began teaching the SportAir Weekend Workshops. He has also taught the LSA Inspection rating course and “What’s involved in Homebuilding”. He started his aviation career at Purdue Aeronautics Corporation in 1967, working on DC 3s and DC 6s. In 1968, he began studies in the AvTech program at Purdue University. In the late 90s, he worked part-time for Avia Bellanca on the Sky Rocket III. He is an A&P, IA, and Tech Counselor. He flies a modified Cessna 182D and works out of a heated/air conditioned hanger at Delphi Airport (1I9) in Delphi,Indiana.

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