Central students have an eye for the sky
Group builds airplane for pilot training
By Jason Arndt
After 13 months of assembly, Westosha Central High School’s Aviation Program successfully launched its first plane, the Falcon 1, in November.
The RV-12 aircraft, a two-seat plane equipped with a 100-horsepower Rotax engine, was possible through a donation made by nonprofit organization Eagle’s Nest along with program mentor James Senft.
Senft has been involved in aviation for more than 35 years and wanted to make an impact on the community, according to Westosha Central science teacher Kan Pai.
“He wanted to give back to the kids,” Pai said.
Nicole Jackson, co-president of the school’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) Aviation Program, said Senft’s dedication made a profound impact on her, and the other 14 students involved.
“He was the driving force behind this whole thing. He scheduled everything, (and) supervised it all,” Jackson said. “It was such an incredible thing for him to do.”
The 15 students, ranging from freshman to seniors, began the project in September 2014, when the school received the $70,000 plane kit. Jackson, a senior, said the project piqued her interest noting her desired career path.
“I was looking at getting into engineering as a career,” Jackson said. “I knew it would be perfect because I want to get into aerospace engineering.”
Following completion of the project, students involved in the project can fly it for free, in exchange for a pilot’s license.
A pilot’s license was an incentive for Jackson’s co-president and fellow senior Olivia Rasmussen.
“I found it really interesting, because I came in to chemistry class one day, and Mr. Pai said ‘Who wants their pilots license!’” Rasmussen said.
However, Rasmussen and Jackson agreed it yielded a valuable learning experience, citing teamwork, dedication and perseverance.
Both stated the application of the Sensenich composite ground adjustable propeller was a difficult task.
“It took so long, you had to put it on, adjust the bolts, take it off and re-do it,” Jackson said. “It took awhile.”
“It is so precise, we had to get it 71.4 degrees,” Rasmussen said. “It was trying to get that precise angle to work out perfectly.”
Additionally, the project emphasized teamwork, and that all students should have pride in this accomplishment, Pai said.
“The combination of teamwork, the challenge of learning so many skills, and accomplishing something that is so hard to do such as building a real, flying aircraft really instills something that is incalculable and invaluable to the students,” Pai said.
The nonprofit organization financed a significant part of the $100,000 required for supplies and operating expenses.
According to Pai, the students will use the Falcon 1 for training purposes, and will sell their next plane to offset expenses.
Both Pai and Senft are fortunate for those who sponsor the nonprofit organization.
Sponsors include S.C. Johnson Wax, Snap-On-Tools, Kenosha Pilots Association, EAA Chapter 838, Kloss Foundation, Rust Oleum, Silver Lake Auto Body, Single Sorce, AeroShell, Sennheiser, We Energies, Mike Jones, Eastman Moving, River City Auto Body, Jon Hendersen and Roger and Arlene Runkel.
Senft said the STEM Aviation Program accepts donations for future endeavors.
A gift of any size can be sent to: Central High School Aviation Club, PO Box 38, Salem, WI 53168.
For additional questions, contact program mentor Jim Senft at firstname.lastname@example.org
For the full printed version, pick up the Jan. 1, 2016 edition of the Westosha Report