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Students take interest in flight

Tenth grader Tyler Hoyt sits in what will be the cockpit of an ultralight airplane being constructed by the Park Rapids Flying Panthers.

By Anna Erickson

The Park Rapids Flying Panthers have made progress on constructing an ultralight airplane and are eager to continue work next year.

The Flying Panthers aviation club is in its second year. Adviser Denny Sleen, a technology education teacher at the high school, has been interested in aviation and thought there might be some interest from students. He was right.

Several students came to an interest meeting and they decided they were interested in more than building just model airplanes.

“I want to be a pilot,” said tenth grader Jesse Swanson. “Maybe be part of CAP (Civil Air Patrol).”

Some of the students joined as ninth graders so they will be able to see the progression on the aircraft from start to finish.

They are working on an RC Cessna 140. The wings of the plane are finished and they are working on the fuselage, or passenger compartment now.

Tenth grader Tyler Hoyt and senior Colter Mitchell also have an interest in flying and latched onto the project immediately. Mitchell wants to fly a helicopter someday.

They’ve had fun researching and figuring out the construction, with Sleen assisting. Students also had the opportunity to ride in a plane to get a feel for it.

Sleen worked at the airport for three years and has flown airplanes but this is the first plane he has constructed.

The project has been a great opportunity for students, he said.

Students use math and problem solving during the process, Sleen said. It’s built to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) standards. An ultralight plane must weigh less than 254 pounds.

“Aviation is expensive but constructing your own plane can put it in reach for some people,” Sleen said.

The cost for materials is about $2,500, which he said is what some people spend on snowmobiles or ATVs.

“You just have to be willing to spend the time on making it,” he said.

Sleen expects this airplane to be completed by the end of the 2013-14 school year. It takes time and students are meeting after school as time permits.

When it is completed, Sleen will pilot the plane at the Park Rapids Municipal Airport. Students will need to go through the proper training if they want to fly the plane.

In addition to the aviation club, the high school is offering an aviation course as part of the curriculum. The class, taught by Sleen, will cover a broad view of aviation and transportation.

He is excited to get more students interested in aviation and flying.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561