Zenith Aircraft Company's
Building An Aircraft
As A School Or Group Project
[How To...] [Aviation Education Links]
Building an aircraft is a true educational experience, whether the aircraft is built by an individual or by a group. Zenith Aircraft Company is committed to expanding learning opportunities available to educational institutions and non-profit groups. Education and non-profit discounts are available from Zenith Aircraft Company, as well as additional technical support.
Schools and Other Educational Institutions
Many educational institutions today are seeking alternative approaches to teaching basic skills to students, with an empasis on applied "hands-on" sessions. Building an aircraft, from start to flying, is the ultimate school project and exposes students to a very wide variety of skills and experiences, and offers educators with resources and material for teaching numerous subjects.
Scope of the Project: While building a real airplane may seem beyond the scope of an educational institution, it's a project that is an ideal "teaching aid," requiring all participating students and educators to work together. An aircraft building project can be structured to actively involve the whole school and community, or can be accomplished as an optional or extracurricular activity.
There are different ways to approach this project - choosing between building an aircraft from blue-prints or assembling a kit. Some schools may decide to limit the project to assembly of the airframe, while others will want to be actively involved in the finishing and flying of the completed aircraft. The level of involvement will determine the required skills, tooling and experience, as well as the required time and financial resources to complete the project.
As the ultimate goal of the aircraft building project is to finish and fly the aircraft, we recommend the involvement of an experienced pilot in the latter stages of the project. There exist numerous skilled and experienced individuals and groups outside of schools that would be willing to aid and support a school project - to provide technical aid, mentoring, and/or financial support. Community involvement and support can become an integral part of the project.
Aviation Clubs and Groups
For aviation clubs, such as EAA Chapters, building an aircraft is an excellent group project. The project provides numerous educational opportunities and is an excellent group activity for members. Clubs may also find it to be an effective way to involve youths in the project, such as by working together with an area school or other youth group. For pilot groups, the finished aircraft can be used as a club airplane for members, or the aircraft can be sold for fundraising or donated for mission use.
Building the aircraft from plans-only (scratch building) requires a minimal upfront investment, but requires sheet-metal tooling and more skills and time. Building from a factory kit jump-starts the project and requires only basic skills and tools. The club may have the funds to purchase the kit; members may buy shares in the aircraft; or one individual may decide to sponsor the kit project and keep the finished aircraft.
Skills & Experience
Basic Airframe Assembly
- Reading and understanding blueprints - math (metric measurements), english
- Reading and understanding assembly instructions - communications, english, math
- Planning - planning the sequence of building / assembly
- Safety - importance of safety, safety equipment, safety procedures
- Sheet-metal assembly - shop (use of many different tools), math
- Group cooperation - working together to make the different sections come together.
- Paint Scheme - art, design, shop
- Powerplant (engine) - physics, shop
- Instruments / avionics - electrics, physics, testing, shop
- Interior (upholstery) - home economics, design, art
- Weight & Balance - math, computer, writing
- FAA Inspection - communication, writing
Additional / Optional Topics
- Flying / aerodynamics - physics
- Communicate with other shools and/or pilots - writing, communication, foreign language
- Navigation - math, geography, communications
- Meteorology / Weather - geography
- Aircraft design and construction - math, physics, computer (CAD)
- Aviation history - history
- Aircraft materials - chemistry, physics
- Flight Planning - math, communications, writing
- Career planning - math (engineering), drafting (CAD), manufacturing, etc.
While the above lists the main skills and experiences that participants will gain, the potential scope of the project is nearly unlimited.
An aircraft construction project will leave a lasting impression on participants while teaching them important life skills. The finished and flying aircraft will leave an unparalleled sense of accomplishement and pride, with participants having seen the project through from start to finish!
Advantages of a Zenith Aircraft design:
- Low Investment - A Zenith Aircraft design can be built from blueprints only or can be built from a factory-made kit. Most shops already have all the required tools for the aircraft assembly. Materials for building the airframe will cost less than $6,000 total, and the factory airframe kits cost less than $12,000. Costs can be recovered if the finished aircraft is sold upon completion, or costs can be minimized by involving project sponsors. Zenith Aircraft company also supplies component kits and individual parts.
- Modular Construction - Each section of the aircraft is built separately, requiring minimal workshop space. Each aircraft section can be made by individual building teams, or the assembly may be sequenced.
- Short Build Time - compared to other light aircraft designs, Zenith Aircraft Company's designs are developed to be quick and easy to assemble (in as little as 400 hours when built from the factory kit by a single individual). This means that the project can be completed within a realistic timeframe, such as a school year, allowing each participant to see the project through to successful completion.
- Simple Skills - The skills required to assemble the airframe are very simple, consisting primarily of measuring and ling up parts, drilling, and riveting with a hand rivet puller. The skills are easy to learn, and the work can be performed by virtually anyone.
- Clean / Low-Hazards - Working with basic sheet metal does not expose participants to toxins, and glues or epoxies are not used in the assembly. This also means that the assemblies do not have to be left to dry, or the workshop does not have to be temperature or dust controlled.
- Proven Designs - Zenith Aircraft Company is a veteran kit aircraft manufacturer with proven designs and drawings, with hundreds of its aircraft currently flying around the world.
- Support Structure - Zenith Aircraft Company provides ongoing technical support to all customers. Extensive building and technical resources are available through the Internet.
- Blueprints, Parts & Kits - With the availability of drawings, individual parts and complete kits, the aircraft project can be tailored to meet the scope and needs of the individual project. Most kit manufacturers do not offer blueprints of their designs and the kits must be assembled with assembly instructions only. Many AutoCAD drawings are now available online.
- Conventional Materials - Zenith Aircraft Company's designs utilize conventional aircraft materials, which are readily available. Skills developed and learned while building a Zenith Aircraft Company airplane can be applied in most other areas on aircraft construction.
Some Current Projects:
2002: Seattle Public Schools has already built several ZODIACs aircraft and is now working on a STOL CH 701. Details about their projects
2002: Gull Lake School Division #76, Tompkins, Saskatchewan, Canada is building a STOL CH 701 with grades 10-12 students.
2006: Central Kitsap Junior High School is building a STOL CH 701 aircraft, and is also beginning a ZODIAC CH 601 project. George Steed at email@example.com or Steve Smith at Steves@cksd.wednet.edu
1998: Community School (Sun Valley, Idaho) is building a ZODIAC CH 601.
1998: St. Theresa's High School in Midland, Ontario, Canada is building a ZODIAC CH 601. Partners involved in the project are St. Theresa's High School, St. Theresa's Parent Association, Huronia Airport, Zenair Ltd., and Georgian College. Call Helen Simpson-Dubeau at Huronia Airport: 705-549-8086
1997: MacNaughton Science & Technology Centre (high school), Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada is building a ZODIAC CH 601. Trent Munn, (506) 856-3469
There are many more... we're trying to track them down.
EAA Sport Aviation magazine: September 2002:
"Reading, Writing and Riveting - students build airplanes - and character," by Kerry Fores, pages 58 - 64, EAA Sport Aviation magazine.
Central Kitsap Junior High's STOL CH 701 project.
- Click here for more info
"How To Build an Airplane in Your School, by George Steed"
A Week at the Zenith Aircraft factory
`Airport Kids´ build and fly a ZODIAC kit thanks to EAA Chapter 229's Falcon Wings program.
Central Kitsap Junior High School Project SchoolFlight
Zenith Aircraft's Design & Construction College
Related Information: Zenith Aircraft Company's Links to Aviation Education Resources
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© Zenith Aircraft Company: 2006-05-05