LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Three high school students in Florida have not only built an airplane, but they’ve also customized it so people confined to wheelchairs can fly it.
Landen Kincart, Nathan Turbeville and Andrew Rodriguez attend Central Florida Aerospace Academy, a unique aviation-focused career academy operated by the Polk County School Board as part of Kathleen High School at Lakeland Linder International Airport.READ MORE: 2 Killed In Crash On 110 Freeway in South LA
When they started working on a Zenith CH 750 Cruzer as an after-school project, it came as a kit with a box full of parts and detailed instructions.
“I knew nothing about airplanes and I saw this club and I’m like, hmm, building an airplane. I thought it was interesting,” Turbeville tells WFTS.
And as if the challenge of building a two-seat, light sport aircraft wasn’t enough, the students decided to modify it for people who don’t have use of their legs.
“We’re sitting there as a team. We’re sitting there thinking about it and you have to think like somebody who has a disability,” says Andy Ovans, who is overseeing the project.
The students rewrote the directions and made their own parts.
“Sometimes we made three or four pieces of garbage before we made a beautiful part that made it into the airplane,” Ovans recalls.
After spending hundreds of hours over the course of two years, the students were finally able to show it off during the Apr. 13-18 SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo air show at Lakeland Linder International Airport.READ MORE: Vigil Held For 18-Year-Old Rylee Goodrich, 1 Of 2 Teen Victims Shot And Killed In Corona Movie Theater
“This plane allows you to just use your hands. You don’t need to have the controls of your feet. There’s no rudder pedals for you to use it’s all in your hands,” Rodriguez explains.
“Forward would be right rudder and back would be left rudder,” Kincart says as he demonstrates the hand controls.
Ovans says the customized design has already captured the attention of veteran aviators.
“And now other people, even in the builder community, you’re like, ‘Hey, can you make me one?’”
The plane is expected to be complete by May. It is scheduled to put into circulation at the academy’s flying club later this spring.
“And so people with those disabilities can enjoy flight time, just like everyone else,” Rodriguez says.
“I never thought it could be a thing. And now it is and I just feel really honored to be part of that,” Turbeville adds.MORE NEWS: More Businesses Like The Abbey in WeHo Setting Own Vaccine Requirements For Customers
“It’s been an experience that’ll change people’s lives, including my own,” Kincart says.