B.C. Rain unveils state's first student-built airplane

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Mobile County Public Schools, B.C. Rain High School and their industry partners on Friday unveiled an airplane built by students at B.C. Rain’s Aviation and Aerospace Academy.

The single-engine Van’s RV-12 aircraft, unveiled at Signature Flight Support Mobile Downtown Airport, is believed to be the first airplane in the state to be built by high school students. Three of them -- recent B.C. Rain graduate Emanuel Dotch and current students Aerie Brown and Alex Tucker -- got the opportunity to fly in the plane with pilot Kevin Williams on Friday. 

“This has given the students the opportunity to take the knowledge they’ve learned and apply it to situations they’ll see in the workforce,” Amanda Prowell, coordinator of B.C. Rain’s Aviation and Aerospace Academy, said of the project. “We’ve actually been contacted by other high schools in the state who are looking to do the same thing.”

A total of about 75 students built the plane from the ground up over the last two years under the tutelage of engineers and mentors from Airbus and VT Mobile Aerospace Engineering and with the assistance of the U.S. Coast Guard, Carlisle Interconnect Technologies and Signature Flight Support. B.C. Rain’s industry partners then completed the inspections necessary to obtain the clearance to fly the plane.

"The goal is to enhance students’ life options by increasing their academic engagement, inspiring them to finish high school, stimulating their interest in an aviation-related career, and encouraging them to adopt positive behaviors that will help them be successful,” Airbus Americas Engineering Site Director David Trent said of the company’s youth development initiatives. “We hope these students had a great experience while building this plane and that they will consider a career in aviation one day.”

Williams, a former Airbus employee who now works with Coastal Alabama Community College’s Alabama Aviation Center, and Gary Booze, a licensed aircraft mechanic and aerospace welder with VT MAE, served as primary mentors for the project.

“They were all excellent students. They were very interested in learning and very hands-on,” said Booze, who is a B.C. Rain graduate himself. “We’re really trying to reach out to kids in high school and even middle school and introduce them to aviation and let them know the opportunities are there for them.” 

The plane was built in conjunction with Tango Flight, a nonprofit organization that promotes and helps coordinate student-centered aircraft-building projects. It was flown to Kansas this summer to be painted before returning to Mobile, where Signature Flight Support has housed it.

“Tango Flight is very proud of the wonderful students and amazing mentors, not only for putting in their full effort to finish this build, but also for working around the challenges of COVID-19,” Tango Flight co-founder Dan Weyant said.

“Signature Flight Support is proud to work with B.C. Rain High School to allow their students the chance to showcase their hard work,” said Tammy Hill, Station Manager for Signature Flight Support. “These students are the future of aviation and their endeavors today will create the paths of innovation that will lead the industry forward.”

The Aviation and Aerospace Academy is B.C. Rain’s Signature Academy, partnering with local aerospace companies to give students hands-on training in aviation, aircraft manufacturing and repair. All 12 MCPSS high schools have Signature Academies, career-focused learning communities that expose students to various career fields and provide them with the foundational academic and social skills necessary to be successful in a college or workplace setting. 

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