Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Kitset plane far from child's play for students • Two-year build a lesson in persistence

Danny Little, left, Alan Caudwell, Morgan Frost and Mike Cole attach a wing to a Vans RV-12 aricraft that a group of college students has been building for more than two years at Nelson Airport.  MARTIN DE RUYTER/ Fairfax NZ

It's like a complex lego build on steroids, but with much higher stakes.

A group of young Nelson students has spent the past two years building a kitset aeroplane.

The mission has been a lesson in persistence and patience, and on Saturday the students and their mentors celebrated the milestone moment of attaching the Van's RV12's wings to the craft.

Students started when they were at college, toiling to decode the plans and fix the pieces together on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings.

The kitset plane was imported from the United States in five wooden boxes by longtime aviator Alan Caudwell, of the The Copter Shop.

Caudwell, and his partner Julja Vogt, were in the States a few years back and met students who had put a similar plane together. Struck with how passionate the youngsters were about the project, they decided to import a similar plane to help Nelson students gain insight into aviation engineering.

Caudwell bought an RV-12 kit from Van's Aircraft.

The project, which started in 2012, was initially run with the different colleges, but Caudwell said that had been frustrating at times. However, a core group of students had stuck with the project, with others joining in along the way.

The project was supported by a number of different local business sponsors and mentors from people working in the aviation industry in Nelson also gave up their Saturdays on a regular basis. Retired aviation engineer Mike Cole was also a big part of the project.

Two young men who had worked on the plane were now studying aviation through Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology in Blenheim.

Caudwell said the project taught practical engineering skills and plan reading skills that he believed was missing at college.

"It surprises the hell out of me that anybody wants anybody that comes from the school.

"I've talked to a lot of people and the one thing that seems to be lacking in the schools is the ability for kids to translate technical information and put it into practical use."

Those who had come through the programme could hopefully now read plans and not have to have employees standing over them, he said.

When the plane was finished the students involved wanted to have a go flying it, and he would sell it.

He estimated the plane would sell in the $100,000 range and said it had cost about $130,000 to this point.

"To see these guys now with it coming together, they are quite delighted by it. To start with [the project] was a bit of a hard row."

Harrison Carver, 19, has been involved since the start. He now has an apprenticeship at Repaircraft. He said the project was fantastic and he had learnt a lot.

"I've got a job out of it."

He initially wanted to be a pilot, but working on the plane had "got me hooked into engineering. I was interested in everything aviation pretty much".

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Leo Treggi takes seaplane interest to new job

Likes seaplanes 
Leo Treggi, the new director of the Winter Haven Municipal Airport after stepping down from that position in Leesburg, sits in the conference room of the Winter Haven Municipal Airport. -Paul Crate / Halifax Media Group

WINTER HAVEN — Leesburg plans to build a $1.2 million seaplane ramp at Leesburg International Airport, which city officials say will be vital for economic development.

But Leesburg could get some competition from Winter Haven Municipal Airport, whose director wants to expand seaplane operations there. That man is Leo Treggi, Leesburg’s former airport director.

City Manager Deric Feacher said he hired Treggi last November based on his knowledge and skill set “to expand the airport’s economic opportunities.” Treggi said he has big dreams when it comes to seaplanes and said Winter Haven is perfectly positioned to grow into the role of a seaplane capital.

He said one thing he wants to do is organize a seaplane gathering, maybe one called the International Seaplane Festival & Parade.

The event would be held in November and would involve some kind of big-lake-only competition between seaplane pilots. Treggi said he wants Bryce’s Juvenile Diabetes Foundation as a partner. The nonprofit organization serves families with children affected by Type 1 diabetes.

Winter Haven’s airport is in an unusual, if not unique, situation: It’s surrounded by six lakes. From 1,000 feet in the air, the airport “looks like an aircraft carrier,” said Jon Brown, who has operated Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base on Lake Jessie next to the airport since 1963.

On a seaplane ramp update last year, Leesburg City Manager Al Minner told city commissioners that seaplane pilots would be able to land on Lake Harris, taxi onto the airport operations area via the taxiway extension, and receive servicing from Wipaire and other business there, while also taking part in recreational seaplane activities at the seaplane base in Tavares, the city that bills itself as the “seaplane capital of the world.”

“There is a whole lot of synergy that we can trade off of from the success of our (Tavares) neighbor and bring that success next door to our airport, and one of the things that we need to do for that is build the seaplane ramp,” Minner said.

Leesburg is still rounding up grant money for the ramp project.

According to the website, there are more than 40 seaplane bases in Florida but only three are public, including the ones in Tavares and Winter Haven.

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