An uplifting experience for Canby youth

CANBY – Everyone dreams of flying, but four Canby High School students and their instructor found a way to make it a reality.

“I happened to get a phone call from Build-a-Plane in March,” said Canby High School aviation teacher Dan Lutgen. “We were one of 27 high schools in 20 states invited to participate in the contest.”

The contest was sponsored by Glasair, a firm that manufactures and sells owner-built airplane kits. Student teams were challenged to design their own modified version of the Glasair Sportsman.

The challenge was to use the firm’s simulation software to design a plane to fly between two airports in Switzerland.

The winner was the plane that could fly the simulated course in the least amount of time, with the most payload, and the most fuel left at the end.

The Canby team came in first and soon were off to Arlington, Wash., with another team from Saline, Mich., to build two planes from Glasair’s Two Weeks to Taxi kit.

Glasair staff did only 49 percent of the work on the plane, the rest was done by the Canby students: John Deslauriers, Leah Schmitt, Wyatt Johansen and Brandon Strippling.

“The kids fabricated, drilled, riveted, assembled and inspected it,” said Mark Van Tine, vice president of Digital Aviation, CEO of Jeppesen aviation company, and now proud owner of the plane built by the Canby class. “We knew we were getting smart kids, but we didn’t know if they could work with their hands.”

They could, and on Saturday they brought the plane to Canby.

For Deslauriers it was a great moment because he had his first solo flight only two days before.

“It was an amazing experience, I don’t know how to explain it,” Deslauriers said. “You’re working on it and one day your flight instructor jumps out and says, ‘It’s yours, have fun.'”

The students took turns flying the plane before heading off to Oshkosh, Wis., for an air show.

“It was amazing,” said Leah Schmitt. “I’d flown a Cessna before but instead of a normal yoke it has a joystick. With a yoke you feel like you’re driving a car but with a joystick it feels like a videogame.”

Thanks to Canby High School, Van Tine got the plane of his dreams and Lutgen’s class got the experience of a lifetime.

“You watch, some of these kids have a future in aviation,” Van Tine said.