Sunday, October 18, 2015

Mac Aero: Learning on the fly

Ian McFall talks about the building instructions that his company is following for the construction of the plane in his hangar at Apex Airpark. 

SILVERDALE — The world headquarters of the Mac Aero airplane company take up half of a hangar in a Silverdale backyard.

Last week inside the shop, Mac Aero founder Ian McFall and employee Garrett Stanley were at work on the company’s latest project, a four-seat, 200-mph Van’s RV-10 kit plane. Plywood boxes the plane parts arrived in still leaned against the hangar walls.

“You start out with a lot of flat aluminum and a packet of rivets and turn it into an airplane,” McFall, 74, said.

Of course, it’s not quite as simple as that. McFall’s employees, four cadets in the Civil Air Patrol’s youth program, ages 16 to 18, have spent more than a year painstakingly assembling the RV-10. They’ve sunk thousands of rivets, shaped fiberglass and composite components, fabricated metal parts and wired in complex autopilot systems, all to exacting specifications.

The 24-foot-long plane has gradually taken shape in the hangar. Its slender fuselage awaited wings and a final jacket of aluminum Tuesday. In the next few months the plane will be flight tested, disassembled and shipped to a buyer in South Africa.

McFall views his business as a training academy as much as a moneymaking operation. Mac Aero might be a tiny company, building a tiny plane, but the skills his young employees learn assembling the RV-10 can be applied on a far larger scale.

“Most of the things involved in building a full-sized airplane are involved in building this,” McFall said.

McFall had education in mind when he launched Mac Aero early last year at his home off Apex Airpark. The longtime pilot once was a cadet himself in the British equivalent of the Civil Air Patrol. He now serves as a glider instructor for local cadets.

McFall staffed his fledgling company with eager aviation students, hiring Garrett Stanley and fellow cadets Christian Stanley, Keenan Boudon and Joseph Buxton.

“The most exciting part is the young people we’ve gotten in here,” McFall said. “They’re all aviation enthusiasts. That’s the kind of people we want, the people who are driven to do this kind of thing.”

To begin with, all of Mac Aero’s finished airplanes will be exported to South Africa, where McFall has family. South African customers are hungry for small planes that can shorten travel times between the country’s far-flung cities or whisk tourists into the back country. The speedy, efficient RV-10 “is an ideal plane for that,” McFall said.

The company’s employees started work on the plane in August 2014. Mac Aero already has an order for a two-seat RV-8 to start once the RV-10 is shipped.

McFall would like to expand Mac Aero into a full-fledged school, taking on more plane projects and more students. The program could become a jumping off point for jobs in the state’s aerospace industry, he said.

“They’ll walk away with a skill and be ready to be hired by someone like Boeing or Alaska Air,” McFall said.

Garrett Stanley, who’s reached the rank of cadet colonel in the Civil Air Patrol, has other plans. He’s pursuing a career as a military pilot.

“I do this because it pays me,” he said last week, taking a pause from his work. “I’d much rather fly them.”

- Source:

Garrett Stanley cuts part of the engine cove.

Ian McFall points out the different components of the tail of the plane that is being built in his hangar at Apex Airpark.

Ian McFall is framed by the window of the plane under construction in his hangar.

Building instructions sit on a work bench in Ian McFall’s hangar at Apex Airpark.

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