The Liberty Gazette
January 15, 2013Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: Welcoming students to the start of the New Year at Clear Springs High School in League City is a partially constructed airplane in the center of the main hallway. Amid the school’s glass and brick, neatly laid out are the fuselage, wings and engine of a Van’s Aircraft RV-12. On top of the box containing the engine a video monitor plays a slide show of the aircraft as it is undergoing a metamorphosis from a kit of metal parts to a completed airplane. Posted high above the airplane is a plaque declaring, “PLTW Aerospace Engineering – there are no limits… the sky is just another place to play,” followed by “Eagle’s Nest Project – Mentors build the students--- Students build the airplane.”
Linda: Back in late Spring Ernie Butcher, RV builder, aviation photographer and friend gave us a call and wanted to talk about a very special project that introduces aviation to the next generation of pilots and aviation professionals through hands-on experience building an airplane. Eagle’s Nest links mentors, schools, and the aviation industry in a manner that promotes education in these core areas, working under the umbrella of Project Lead The Way (PLTW), a rigorous and innovative Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education program used in middle and high schools across the U.S. One of the most exciting aspects of this project is that although it’s founded in aviation, aerospace and STEM education, students pursuing other fields of interest such as journalism, speech, business and art participate to provide support from their particular field. Clear Springs High School is a PTLW-certified school. Houston – we have an Eagle’s Nest.
The students can use this airplane, once completed and signed off by the FAA as airworthy, for instruction toward their private pilot license. Those who participate in building the airplane will have the opportunity to receive 20 hours of flight instruction at no charge. All the other students at the campus where the project plane is built will have the opportunity to receive an introductory flight and five hours of flight instruction, paying only for the flight instructor, not the airplane.
Mike: The Clear Springs campus is the third school in the country to start an Eagle’s Nest Project, which was launched in the League City school this past fall. The sponsor for the project is Friends of RV-1 an organization dedicated to the historical preservation of the VanGrunsven RV-1 (the first rendition of what has become the best-selling experimental aircraft of all time), and for the purpose of supporting, fostering, and engaging in aviation and aerospace education. Because of their success with Eagle’s Nest, Clear Springs has been singled out as one of only ten schools in the country to be called a model by PLTW, which says the school exceeds expectations.
The first Eagle’s Nest Project plane built by the students at Jennings County High School, North Vernon, Indiana has been completed and its first pilot has soloed in it. On his 16th birthday with both his father and grandfather present, Austin Malcomb got the traditional treatment of having his shirt-tail cut off after he soloed in N901EN, Eagle's Nest One.
Linda: Today, there are seven Eagle’s Nest Projects either completed or underway. Each is fostering students' understanding and respect for the airplanes they build and helping promote a love of the freedom of flight, while including almost the whole student body contributing from a variety of interests.