As the aviation industry in Oregon transitions to the next generation of pilots, mechanics, technicians, innovators, and enthusiasts, many will see just how bright the future is because of the vision of one man and continued commitment of so many others in the development of the TeenFlight program.

Dick VanGrunsven, founder of Van’s Aircraft, started the TeenFlight program in 2009 with the desire to give students the same opportunity to build planes that had changed his own life in high school. That same year, a group of high school students started building an RV-12 at the Van’s factory based out of the Aurora Airport. The plane is one of the company’s kit planes, a two-seater that each student gets to fly in when the project is completed. Finished planes are then sold, funding the next build.

Since the program began, five planes have been built by students, each taking about a year and a half to complete with the help of mentors. Two more planes are in construction, with one almost ready to fly – but awaiting safe working under COVID. Most students begin with no experience or skills needed to take on the build. More importantly, students learn life skills such as teamwork and leadership throughout this process.

High school students work on building an RV-12 plane.

This is a program that truly changes students’ lives. John Davis is one student who took part in this project. He now works work at the Van’s Aircraft’s Aircraft Assembly Division building RV-12iS airplanes, with plans to take his instrument check ride in the fall with the end goal of flying commercially.

“I have made a lot of great friends and connections in the aviation world,” John says. “Huge thanks to Airway Science, EAA 105, and Van’s Aircraft; I would not be where I am today if not for the opportunities provided by these folks.”

Our airport businesses and partners are committed to helping foster the next generation of aviation pilots, innovators, and builders. Helping provide leadership and vision to the TeenFlight program are Aron Faegre (Aron Faegre Architects), Ted Millar (Southend Corporate Airpark), and Dick VanGrusven (Van’s Aircraft). TeenFlight is a program within Airway Science for Kids Inc. which has aviation programs for all ages of children.

We’re proud of the TeenFlight program and its leaders for the opportunities it gives Oregon teens who are ensuring a bright future for Oregon aviation, one plane at a time.

Click here to learn more about TeenFlight and Airway Science for Kids, Inc.



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