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Sat, Aug 26, 2023

Alabama Students to Build Van’s RV-12

Tango Flight Program Fostering Interest in Aerospace Careers

The 2023/24 school year will see schools in Mobile County, Alabama’s Satsuma City School System offer Tango Flight, a two-year program by which students build a two-seat airplane.

Satsuma City Schools superintendent Tim Guinn stated: “That’s a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) type of program, where the child will learn everything about aerospace. What makes a plane fly, to actually putting it together. From engine, to wheels, to the rudders, to the wings, the whole thing. And the neat thing about it is it will be a real plane, it will be licensed, it will be flown.”

Satsuma is the third school system in coastal Alabama to adopt the program.

Tango Flight—a Texas-based non-profit organization—works, also, with B.C. Rain High School in the Mobile County Public School System, as well as with Gulf Shores High School in the Gulf Shores City School District. The aforementioned are the only Alabama educational institutions participating in the program—which is capped at some forty school districts nationwide.

Students enrolled in the Tango Flight program undergo two-years of didactic training germane to aerodynamic principles, aircraft design and construction, and building techniques. Contemporaneously, students undertake the construction of a Van’s RV-12—a popular kit airplane produced by Oregon-based Van’s Aircraft.

A renown light-aircraft engineering and fabrication concern, Van’s provides schools taking part in the Tango Flight program materials and instructions from and by which to build robust, easy-to-fly aircraft.

Upon completion, aircraft built by Tango Flight enrollees are inspected by authorized FAA personnel who—in accordance with criteria set forth by the Administration—certify the aircraft airworthy.

Mr. Guinn explained: “Tango Flight has a test pilot, and once it’s clear to their engineers and quality assurance, he will come down and take possession of the plane, and then he will test fly it. And when they give it the okay there, then the plane is good to be on the market.”

Proceeds from the sales of student-built aircraft are used to offset Tango Flight’s operating costs.

Tango Flight director of development Craig Anthony further explained the first non-certification flight taken in all student-built aircraft is piloted by Tango Flight executive director Dan Weyant. Moreover, every student and administrator involved with the program is afforded opportunity to take a ride in the aircraft they helped build.

The Tango Flight program trains not only students, but instructors and volunteer mentors in the fiddly business of kit aircraft construction. Volunteers typically have backgrounds in engineering, mechanics, or piloting.

Mr. Guinn opined the considerable time commitment inherent the Tango Flight program is apt to make volunteers hard to come by. Mr. Anthony reported, however, that Tango Flight works to identify suitable volunteers.

Since the Tango Flight program’s 2016 founding, numerous U.S. schools have successfully built and flown airplanes.  

Satsuma schools will fund the program via local resources. Schools participating in the Tango Flight program pay a refundable deposit for the airplane manufacturing kit and an additional yearly fee of $14,000 for the curriculum and instruction.

The Tango Flight program seeks to introduce students to STEM disciplines through hands-on experience, thereby engendering interest in aerospace careers and defining career paths.

“The hand-in-glove system excites students, keeps them motivated,” Mr. Anthony asserted. “It’s not single-purpose and single-use, there’s a lot of other things in it for students.”



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