BLC "Build a Plane" project
It has been over seven years in the making – now a plane, built from scratch by former students and staff at Bridge Learning Campus, has finally been given the green light to fly.
Those involved in the project were able to see the fruits of their labour on the runway at a special celebration event at Gloucestershire Airport in Staverton.
Although the unpredictable British weather sadly prevented the light aircraft, G-TBLC, from taking to the skies on the day, students will be invited back to Staverton another time – when conditions are less windy – to fly in the plane alongside the pilot.
Before the event, the plane underwent a series of test flights before being awarded its permit to fly.
At the event on September 26, students – who had helped build many aspects of the aircraft – were still able to hear the engine run and sit in the passenger seat of the two-seater plane.
Bridge Learning Campus was one of six schools across the country to have been selected to take part in the Schools Build-a-Plane (SBAP) challenge, which was launched by Boeing and the Royal Aeronautical Society in 2008 to inspire young people to consider careers in the engineering, manufacturing and aviation fields.
Bridge Learning Campus was the third school to receive the kit in 2011, when Philip Buckley was head of the engineering department and Tim Baldwin was the school’s engineering technician.
Over its lifespan, the project saw the involvement of hundreds of students, three department heads and three headteachers.
However, Mr Baldwin – who retired from Bridge Learning Campus this summer at the age of 77 – saw the project right through to its completion in 2018.
Mark Davies, CEO of Trust in Learning Academies (TiLA) which Bridge Learning Campus is part of, was the executive head of campus when the project started. He said at the launch event that Mr Baldwin had been the “glue” which held the project together.
Both Mr Buckley – who left the school to return to Leeds in 2016 – and Mr Baldwin also attended the event in Staverton.
At the plane launch, Lee Balthazar – past president of the SBAP advisory group – said that the occasion marked a “key milestone” in the project as it celebrated the final plane to be built.
He said that students should feel extremely proud of their involvement and added that BLC’s vision of ‘Trust in learning, trust in success’ had been realised in this programme.
Kenny Awere, 19, left Bridge Learning Campus in 2016 - he worked on many aspects of the plane during his time at the school, from the brakes to the propeller.
He said: "It seems unreal to see it today. When I saw it last it was without wings and not able to fly.
"The project definitely has inspired me - not necessarily in aviation but in engineering. It's allowed me to see what's possible.
"I was kind of looking forward to flying today. Many people's experience of planes is flying in 747s or 737s but this would have been a totally different flying experience. If we can't fly today, there will be another day."
Matt Tyler, 16, left Bridge Learning Campus this summer. He worked on G-TBLC throughout Years 9 and 10. He said: "It's been fun working with the team and gaining experience from the older engineers. It was a proud moment when we saw the plane get loaded into the back of the truck to get assessed.
"I was a little bit excited about flying today but nervous as I've never flown before. Hopefully we'll have a chance to be up there in the sky soon, especially as I helped with building the plane."
School leaver Jenna Howell, 16, who worked alongside Matt on the aircraft, said: "I can't comprehend that it's now able to fly.
"It was nowhere near able to fly when I last saw it - it's unbelievable for us."
Jenna was part of a team of students who helped support the wings while they were joined to the fuselage and covered the wings in its bright blue and black material.
Take a look at some media coverage of the event;