WEST JORDAN Two-and-a-half years and 50 pairs of student hands later, and Granger High School has an airplane.
The shiny new Excalibur a four-seat, 200-horsepower, propeller engine, kit airplane stood out among the older planes parked in the hangar at the West Jordan Municipal Airport Saturday morning. After two years of sitting in a workshop, it was unveiled as a one-of-a-kind.
"As far as I'm concerned, it's the best-looking plane in the entire state of Utah," said Granger High teacher Scott Lewis, who all but sold his home to create the unique aerospace opportunity for his students.
The $70,000 aircraft was not funded by tax money but was made possible by cash and in-kind donations from local and national businesses, as well as a $15,000 grant from the 100 Percent for Kids Credit Union Education Foundation.
"All my life, I've wanted to build a plane," Lewis said, adding that the Canard Pusher, complete with a front air-foil, exceeded his expectations and could not have been realized without "a lot of blood, sweat and tears" and countless hours of dedication from students.
"The work, building fiberglass, is sticky, itchy and smelly, and it takes a long time to do," he said. "But we couldn't have done it without the help of everyone involved."
Cory Christopher began working on the project during his sophomore year at Granger. Seeing the finished product makes him proud and even more excited about airplanes.
"When we started, it was basically a bunch of parts made out of cardboard," Christopher said. "I can't believe it really looks like a plane."
He recalls that it took at least six people to put each wing on the aircraft, with four people holding it up while two bolted it in place. Donning jumpsuits and safety goggles only made the experience more real for him.
"I learned that you have to be precise when you're doing something like this. You have to mean what you do, and you have to be dedicated," he said. "I'm glad we finally got it done."
Only 80 percent of kit airplanes that are purchased are ever completed, making this an even greater accomplishment, Lewis said.
"For some of the kids, it was a ground-up experience how to use some of the tools," he said. "It was their first time for a lot of things."
And although it didn't take flight this weekend, the Excalibur will fulfill its destiny as soon as the long-awaited propeller arrives. It is expected sometime this week.
"I think it will mean quite a bit to the students to see it fly," said Jim Wallis, father of John Wallis, one of the student aviators. He said he's encouraged the affection his son has for airplanes, as he shares a similar interest.
"I've always been interested in aviation and airplanes," he said. "I've seen a number of different planes, and this, this is a beautiful plane."
The design, the sliver-and-red paint job and the emblems and lettering that flank the outside of the plane all were created by students at Granger. The project, although the work was completed off-campus, was a well-rounded effort to include multiple disciplines and curriculum.
"It's a NASCAR-looking thing," Lewis said. "I think it's got a nasty, tough look."
After experiencing a flight in the plane, Lewis said he thinks he'll sell it and pay off the second mortgage he had to take to pay for it in the first place. He hopes the notoriety of being built by an entire science class will help the aircraft sell. The experience had in making it, however, will belong to the kids forever."No one else has that plane," Lewis said. "It gives them an immortal memory to hold on to, knowing they had a part in something this great."
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