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Alaskan students progress on Light Sport Aircraft building project

Rob Stapleton

A new aircraft is being born at the hands of the students attending Chevak High School, and their project will soon produce a Rans S-6S two-place airplane that will be seen in Anchorage this spring.

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Photos courtesy ChevakAviation.com
Chevak High School students are building this Rans Coyote II S-6 from a build kit acquired by teacher Ryan Walker.
"We are on track after spending three to four months on the project," said Ryan Walker, Aviation and Personal Finance teacher at Chevak High School.

The Rans Coyote II S-6 project, which started as a Quick Build kit, is a two-place, side-by-side seating, single-engine high wing aircraft which can be built as a tail wheel or tricycle landing gear Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) that will be powered by a 100 horsepower Rotax 912ULS.

Additionally, the aircraft will be fitted with a Dynon SkyView HSI multifunction (glass cockpit) display unit that replaces legacy steam gauges, according to Walker.

Walker states the goal is to finish the airplane by March. After it has been test flown, Walker will fly the plane to the Alaska Airmen's Association Tradeshow and Convention held at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in late April.

Walker, also an A&P and a flight instructor, is the driving force behind the Chevak High School's aviation program started in 2009, but the students are the reason for the Build-A-Plane project, explains Walker.

"The first thing I wanted was to give the students a reason to pursue getting an education," said Walker. "I think some people feel that they don't have to finish a project, so they have learned that they don't have to finish. A byproduct of this project is for the students to learn that they are capable of finishing a project."

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Aviation and personal finance teacher at Chevak High School Ryan Walker, middle, helps students make adjustments to the aircraft.

Walker says that people in the community of 900 depend on aircraft daily, and that because aviation is so relevant to the lifestyle in Western Alaska, kids look up to pilots and many want to fly and see aviation as an opportunity for a career.

Walker says that of the 15 students in his class, 10 are actively involved in the building process daily.

"It's fun, I get a lot of enjoyment from it," said Thurman Matchian, 17, a student at Chevak High School. "I work on it 45 minutes a day, Monday through Friday."

Matchian is also a member of the after-school Aviation Club where they build balsa wood model aircraft, and he is studying to take the Private Pilot knowledge test.

"I hope to take the test either at Yuut Yaqungviat in Bethel or at Take Flight's testing center in Anchorage," said Matchian. "Then maybe if I get a scholarship I can go to flight school in Bethel and become a pilot."

Matchian says that he is preparing and has scored above 90 percent on the Private Knowledge test using Sporty's aviation study materials.

"I learned a lot of stuff about airplanes," Matchian says. "Building this is kinda like building the models except that the electrical wiring is more difficult."

Walker says that he and Patrick McClean, a pilot who lives in the nearby village of Hooper Bay, work closely with the students building the aircraft.

"We do everything with them, even the tiniest details are explained and taught just like your dad would do with you," said Walker. "We are lucky to have another expert like Patrick McClean who rides his snowmachine over here three days a week."

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Pilot Patrick McClean, right, of Hooper Bay comes to Chevak to assist in the project three days each week.
McClean is also working with Grant Funk's aviation classes who are also building an airplane at Hooper Bay.

Walker said that to ease fears of liability and expenses, he bought the airplane kit and will have full control of the Coyote II once it complete.

Everyone in Chevak is eager to see the aircraft fly and Walker agrees to keep it as an educational tool for other future aviation students to see.

Evidence of the Chevak School's Build-A-Plane project can be seen at their website called Chevak School Aviation, where the Rans S-6 builder log shows photographs daily as evidence of their work and progress.

Contact Rob Stapleton at robstapleton(at)alaska.net .