Indigenous youth from Manitoba building plane with Eagle’s Wings Flight School

Avatar for Ashleigh CorderyBy Ashleigh Cordery | March 25, 2024

Estimated reading time 4 minutes, 43 seconds.

Build team students Leah Spence and Adrian James-Stagg work together on the cockpit frame. Eagle’s Wings Flight School Photo

Eagle’s Wings Flight School (EWFS) has recently launched a unique new program that has local Indigenous high school students from Portage Collegiate Institute and Westpark School teaming up to build an airplane.

A group of eight young people ranging from grades 9 to 12 have the rare opportunity to build an airplane under the instruction and mentorship of Eagle’s Wings’ volunteer pilots and mechanics.

Now in its fifth year of operation, EWFS has acquired a BushCat ultralight kit plane that arrived in Southport earlier this month in four large wooden crates from its manufacturer in South Africa.

Students and their build mentors have begun to unpack, inventory and assemble thousands of component pieces of an airplane that they will one day fly together. 

This hands-on, practical learning experience takes shape as an after-school program with the build team meeting weekly to assemble parts that will become the fuselage, cockpit and wings of the airplane. 

In the six short weeks since they began, students have been introduced to valuable mechanical skills such as torquing, riveting, lock wiring and basic power tool handling, all of which are transferable to life outside of the hangar and many other trades.

The project is expected to take a total of 220 hours to complete over the duration of the next two to three school years. 

Build team member, Leah Spence, a grade 12 Roving Campus student at PCI, joined the program in order to gain more mechanical experience and now says that build nights have become the highlight of her week. After she graduates, Spence plans to attend the Intro to Trades program at Red River College.

In addition to the team of passionate mentors who take the opportunity each week to share their knowledge and skills, this incredible work is made possible by the generosity of several community partners whose financial contributions brought this dream to fruition.

EWFS’ board chair and BushCat build instructor, Josh Cordery, said: “The outpouring of support and donations from leaders in our community has freed up our team to really focus on building lesson plans and relationships with our students, which is why we’re here.”

The build team mentor mechanics are passionate about passing along their knowledge and connecting with students who share a common interest in how things work. Local businesses that have joined forces with Eagle’s Wings on this initiative include Southport Aerospace, KF Aerospace, CBO, Canadian Helicopters, Canada Catering, Principle Supply and Portage Transport.

Eagle’s Wings is a 100 per cent volunteer-run registered Canadian charity that has hosted 25 young people from First Nations across Southern Manitoba for a summer learn-to-fly program over the past four years.

EWFS is excited to embark on this build journey with local students over the next couple of years and continue to inspire at-risk youth to explore their innate gifts, build self-confidence, and develop practical life-skills through aviation training.  

To check out the build adventures,  Follow us on Facebook, or visit the website Eagle’s Wings Flight School for more information.

Ashleigh Cordery is program coordinator at Eagle’s Wings Flight School.

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