By John Egan, EAA 336835, and Steve Socolosky, EAA 548724
For several years, EAA Chapter 166, located in Hartford, Connecticut, had been flying kids from a local aerospace-themed middle-high school. Inviting school kids to Young Eagles rallies not only provided the chapter with a continuous flow of aviation-minded youths at the events, it established a working relationship with the college. Little did the chapter know that the relationship it was establishing with the school would result in a terrific opportunity within a few short years.
Due to unfortunate circumstances in the district’s budget, the school needed to curtail a youth build program where kids in grades 6 through 12 were engaged in building the Van’s RV-12 airplane. As luck would have this, EAA Chapter 166 was ready to take on a new youth build of its own, and being a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organization, the particular chapter was gifted the incomplete RV-12 project from typically the school. With the section being near the school, some of the kids not only assisted with the airplane’s relocation, but also are involved in building this airplane as chapter members.
Prior to pulling rivets on the airplane, EAA Chapter 166 president and youth build coordinator Steve Socolosky, along with chapter members, coached often the kids on proper techniques and tool use. Sam shares the following:
“We first practiced basic skills on your Van’s toolbox kit. We made a bunch of them! Students learned how to inventory parts, as well as read, understand, and execute instructions/drawings. They understood the seriousness of their work and that people’s lives depended on that. The students rose to the occasion and were very good, conscientious builders. They knew that my help has been limited to drilling out a bad rivet or modeling some unusual technique. THEY were responsible for building, checking, documenting, and rechecking their own work. The mistakes were minor (relatively low-cost, under $100) plus became less frequent over time.
“To date, the students have completed the vertical fin, rudder, and wings, with work well underway on the exact stabilator, fuselage, and tail cone. The only kit left to purchase was the avionics package. Approximately 20 students migrated to the very chapter with the project and were ecstatic that will they can resume building and eventually form some sort of flying club! Even the local FBO, Hartford Jet Center at Hartford-Brainard Airport (HFD), is letting us use space inside one of its hangars to build our RV-12. Further proof associated with engaging in THE SPIRIT OF AVIATION! ”