Monday, October 2, 2023

GHS aerospace engineering class builds fourth airplane


Students involved in the Granbury High School aerospace engineering program can now check “build a plane” off their bucket list.

The Eagle’s Nest Project at GHS, initiated in 2016, has been offering students in the aerospace engineering program the opportunity to assemble an aircraft for the past seven years.

But after building three FAA-certified Light Sport aircrafts, it was time for a change.

“My students and our adult volunteers have just finished our fourth airplane,” said Mark Kirk, aerospace and aviation instructor at GHS. “This plane is different than the first three that we built. It is bigger, more powerful and more versatile than the first three planes that we built. The first three airplanes (Vans RV12s) were kind of like a compact economy car whereas this plane (Rans S-21) is more like a back country jeep.”

The switch to a different build, Kirk explained, was largely due to demand and versatility.

"It's a bigger, heavier aircraft, so they’re a little bit more in demand,” he said. “They’re pretty popular, so we’re going to do the same (build) on our next airplane.”

He said it took about a year and a half to get the plane completed, with the help of about two dozen students, plus the volunteer work of several adult mentors.

“It’s exciting,” Kirk said. “This airplane is a little bit more labor intensive than the first three that we built, so it’s nice to see it come to fruition.”


Kirk said there will be a barbecue dinner at the airport, at 400 Howard Clemmons Road, on Friday, May 5, starting at 6 p.m. to allow the students and their families to see the finished airplane and to mingle with the adult mentors — the latter of whom he couldn’t thank enough for all their hard work.

“I must say that the adult mentors, many of which have volunteered to help us out for seven years now, are a huge part of what makes this a successful program,” he said. “I am super thankful for (the mentors), and there is no way my aerospace engineering students and I could do this without them.”


Since the GHS aviation program launched, Kirk said there has been a growing interest in students who are wanting to learn more about aviation — adding that there are a total of 120 students in his classes now.

“In addition to the aerospace engineering program, I have more students than ever in the GHS aviation program that are participating in flight instruction at the airport with In the Pattern (ITP) flight school,” he said.

In the Pattern flight school recently received an award for the best flight school in the country from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) for the second year in a row.

“The future of the aviation and aerospace program looks outstanding as it is firing on all cylinders and the workforce opportunities in these fields are wide open for the students in this generation,” Kirk added.

After phase one of flight testing is completed on the Rans S-21 airplane, it will then be sold to a gentleman who lives “down on the coast,” according to Kirk.

“We’ll be ready to start (working on another airplane) in the fall,” he added.


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