Non-Profit Gets Aircraft, Inspiration From Around The
Since 2003, Build A Plane has dedicated itself to growing
general aviation through educational programs. Lyn Freeman, founder
of the non-profit, became familiar with unusual requests and
probably thought he had seen everything... until 2005, when he
heard from Kasarachi "Kasa" Ejimofor.
Kasa contacted Build A Plane (BAP) after a satellite dish was
installed in his remote village of Aba, Nigeria. This installation
allowed him to watch television programs for the first time.
Aviation programs drew his interest immediately; he had always been
fascinated by things that flew. His interest grew rapidly due to
the sudden exposure to a variety of aviation programs now
Kasa, then 17 years of age, contacted BAP and told them he had
designed his own airplane. BAP turned to two brothers, who were
also young airplane designers, and asked if they would be
interested in mentoring young Kasa. Alan and Dale Klapmeier of
Cirrus Design were interested immediately.
Helping Kasa build his design became a mission... not just to
the Klapmeiers, but also to the other kids and to the principal,
C.G. Onuoha, at his school. Building Kasa's design was wrought with
challenges, but "Their Build A Plane project built the spirit of
facing challenges and hard work," Onuoha said.
Kasa and his friends continued to learn. They learned to weld,
to work with fiberglass; they scavenged for parts and material and
learned to overcome challenges everywhere. They were building an
airplane, of their own design, with no materials and no
instructions, while living in a place where this wasn't normally
Two years later, they stood in front of their finished plane.
"They learned to solve problems in their academic endeavors,"
principal Onuoha said. This experience would take them far in life.
Several of the young builders expressed an interested in
engineering, mathematics, sciences and flight and are pursuing
those interests today.
For Kasa, this was a dream come true. "I want to thank Cirrus
and Build A Plane, because this project has highlighted my whole
life. I wish more young people around the world the same
His project is now over, but his experience and dedication to
aviation have just begun.
Another story takes place in a remote Alaskan Village; Hooper
Bay High School is 500 miles from the nearest road, flying in that
area is a primary means of survival. The students at this high
school will learn to build, and then fly a Thorp T-211. Their
initial goals include earning Light Sport Repairman and Sport Pilot
Grant Funk, a teacher at Hooper Bay, pilot and Certified Flight
Instructor, says, "You can't imagine what a dream come true this is
for us!" He goes on to say, "We'll begin the building process right
away. Next fall I'll teach a Sport Pilot ground school so that when
the airplane is completed we'll have the ground school already
finished. And, as the airplane is certified and ready to roll,
we'll teach them to fly it."
The Thorp T-211 light sport aircraft is being donated by Dr. Ram
Pattisapu, founder and CEO of IndUS Aviation out of Dallas, TX and
Bangalore, India. He said, "IndUS has been a big supporter of Build
A Plane since the project began several years ago and I hope more
of the aviation and aerospace community will step up and get
involved. This is the kind of thing we need to be doing."
Many organizations agree with Dr. Pattisapu. FedEx, NASA, the
FAA, Parametric Technology Corporation, the National Center for
Aircraft Technician Training, Purdue University, and Massachusetts
Institute of Technology are just a sample of the organizations
stepping up to help the program.
After Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, Avemco donated 12 aircraft with saltwater
damage. Although the planes will never fly again, they
otherwise are in exceptional condition for study and educational
Jim Lauerman, Executive Vice President of Avemco, states, "Our
mission is to support initiatives that improve aviation safety, and
the Build a Plane project fits perfectly within this mission.
As it grows, the aviation industry will require thousands of
additional maintenance and repair professionals. The
investment we make in aviation education today will pay immense
dividends in the future."
Build A Plane, in partnership with the Thomas Wathen Foundation,
continues to seek donations as well as the names of interested high
schools, young people, EAA groups, and private individuals who want
to participate in a project like the ones outlined here.
"Thanks to the generosity of the aviation community, Build A
Plane has placed more than a million dollars' worth of project
aircraft into the hands of kids and their adult mentors," Freeman