Take-off for plane built by students

Published 6:00am 27 March 2024

Take-off for plane built by students
Words by Nick Crockford

An aircraft built in Caboolture by students, has passed its flight tests and taken to the skies.

The two-seat VANS RV 12iS was built by St Columban’s College Aero Club, with Flight Youth Engineering, over five years.

It was officially unveiled at Caboolture Aerodrome on Friday and had, at the time of writing, completed more than 25 hours in the air.

St Columban’s College is the first school in Australia to build a plane as part of its Flight Youth Engineering program.

Take-off for plane built by students
The VANS RV 12iS plane built by St Columban's College students.

Plans are now to base the VANS RV 12iS at Redcliffe Aerodrome, so the community has access to the plane.

It will, however, be sold, funds being put in a trust with not-for-profit Flight Youth Engineering to finance future aircraft builds by St Columban’s students.

Principal Michael Connolly said: “It is not about building a plane, it is about educating young people and what better way to achieve this than by engaging in practical, hands-on learning.

“By doing so, this very plane becomes an integral part of our college’s legacy, contributing not only to our institution, but also to education in Australia.”

Take-off for plane built by students
The names of all involved in the program are listed on the side of the plane

Flight Youth Engineering organised the plane kit from the US - and provided mentors Paul Reddish, Ashley Miller, Michael Allen and Richard Raymond.

In 2019 Paul and Ashley visited American schools and spoke to directors running the program, gathering tips for St Columban’s engineering and aerospace students.

“We’re trying to turn them into their own manufacturing plant for this type of product and on the way they’re getting hands-on experience they would never get,” Paul said at the time.

“Because we cover so many topics, they (students) come from all different fields. Some will want to be pilots, some will want to be aircraft engineers, or civil engineers.

Take-off for plane built by students

“The big takeaway we got (from the US) was … lots of kids have similar results, but they’re the ones who have built an aircraft.

“Their resumes invariably went to the top. Their success rate was way higher. Most we met were getting scholarships. They were sought-after.”

During construction Principal Michael Connolly praised the mentors and opportunities the program provided.

Take-off for plane built by students
St Columban's College Principal Michael Connolly beside the finished plane.

“It’s brought aviation to very bright students who once wouldn’t have had that experience,” he said.

St Columban’s program had some delays in shipments from the US, due to the impacts of COVID and then had COVID health restrictions during the build in Australia.

The whole process took two years of planning and approvals, with three years of construction. Lessons learned from the first plane will help shorten the next program.

Building the plane - click through

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