November 22, 2016 - At just 15 years old, Rachel St Louis is well on her way to achieving her homebuilding dreams, selling homemade aviation jewelry to fund her SkyReach BushCat LSA project. Rachel, EAA 1161689, was inspired to start her own build project after pulling a rivet on the One Week Wonder Zenith CH750 at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014.
“I then started to understand it wasn’t very difficult to put an airplane together,” Rachel said. “I asked some questions about the kit being used and thought to myself how neat it was [EAA] would finish it in that same week to fly. I received some pins when I pulled the rivet and went back to the camper that night and made earrings out of them to wear during the rest of AirVenture.”
Rachel began making jewelry when she was 8, and soon after completely sold out at a local holiday craft fair. She has since started her own business, Rachel’s Jewelry Machias, selling traditional jewelry such as earrings and bracelets in addition to tie tacks and key chains.
She has been coming to AirVenture since she was 7, but said she first became truly hooked on flying at age 10, when her dad started encouraging her to take the controls of his Cessna 172 on flights to local fly-ins.
At AirVenture 2014, EAA’s One Week Wonder project sparked her interest.
“I had helped my dad do mechanic work ever since I could walk,” Rachel said. “I sometimes would hand him tools when he couldn’t reach them. My dad also does a lot of carpentry work, and I helped him build buildings and construct things at a very young age. So I knew it was possible to do the same thing as the people building the One Week Wonder.”
Rachel said once she returned to her camper after pulling a rivet, she began discussing with her parents what it would take to build her own airplane. They suggested she use her jewelry sales to raise funds for a kit.
“My dad and I made the mobile showroom to bring to AirVenture 2015,” she said. “We set up as an exhibitor with no expectations on sales and were completely blown away by the support we received.”
That same year Rachel and her dad began making the rounds in the homebuilt area at AirVenture to tell different exhibitors about her building goals. She said SkyReach was one of the few booths where she was taken seriously and not dismissed because of her age.
Rachel liked the looks of the BushCat amphibian on display and shared with the SkyReach staff that she was interested in using funds from her jewelry business to purchase a kit.
“Mike Gill, Daniela, and Jeremy Knoll thought it was a great idea,” Rachel said. “Mike said he would be excited to offer up any kind of deal to participate in the build. We stayed for a while discussing my business and how I was going to pay for the plane and what I wanted to do as I grew up.”
Rachel has since begun her BushCat build and is taking ground school with Sporty’s through EAA’s Young Eagles program. Next year she plans to start flight training and building hours in the LSA category, as she currently has only accumulated time — more than 150 hours — flying right seat with her dad.
Not only is Rachel achieving her homebuilding dreams at a young age, she is working to share that success with other young people searching for an avenue to the skies. She said after receiving so much support from SkyReach and AeroSport, LLC, her parents, and the people who purchase her jewelry, she wanted to find a way to thank the aviation community.
“I have a few things I am working on to pay it forward as I work towards my dreams of a life in aviation,” Rachel said. “Every aviation event I have been to with the mobile showroom there is someone who has a child that just wants to know how I got started. … I am offering a way for them to sell their jewelry in my mobile showroom.”
Additionally, she recently gave a keynote presentation at the first annual DeLand Sport Aviation Showcase about how she is using her business to support her build.
Keep up with Rachel’s progress on her BushCat build on her Facebook page.