March 2019 saw the local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) unveiling their latest program, the Naples Youth Aviation Project (NYAP). The project is aimed at providing young aviation enthusiasts the adventure of a lifetime: building a Sling 2 Aircraft that will eventually make its first flight at Naples Airport, Florida.
“We have been introducing young people to flight through our monthly Young Eagle Flight Rallies and we continually meet boys and girls who are fascinated by airplanes, in both the flight itself and the technology involved. We realized we needed to do something more to give these kids an outlet to pursue their interest in a meaningful and educational way,” said Joan Zaleski, Sling 2 owner and Chapter 1067 president. “Building this airplane will require them to put all of their STEM studies to use and our knowledgeable mentors will assist them.”
Many of the EAA chapter members have assisted as mentors throughout the building process. This experienced group is made up of FAA licensed aircraft mechanics, inspectors, aircraft builders, flight instructors, airline pilots and recreational pilots. Upon completion, it will be certified by the FAA as an Experimental Amateur-Built Aircraft, or “E-AB.” Robert Zaleski, Sling 2 owner and Project Leader recently sent us the mail below detailing their journey thus far and the adventure that is building your own Sling Aircraft.
“Our NYAP youth build has been an amazing experience and our builders are enjoying all aspects of the building process. These kids continue to surprise me with their enthusiasm and desire. Their parents say it’s all they talk about when they get home! We had our first youth builder pass his Private Pilot written exam and is now a James Ray Scholarship recipient! He has already begun his flight training! We’re making an impact on aviation’s future, thanks to the generosity of the Sling Pilot Academy, TAF and additional donors.
Working with Jet Blue, we are going to get a tour of their maintenance and simulator facilities in Orlando, Florida. This will be an tremendous field trip for our youth builders as many aspire to be pilots, maintenance technicians and engineers! This is a rare opportunity as most airlines are very security sensitive about their facilities.
We have also applied to several aviation entities for grant money to continue to fund the build. We think we’re very close to a significant grant! Our EAA chapter members and local pilots who come upon our hangar as we build also continue to make donations to the cause. Our plan is to sell our finished Sling when done and use the proceeds to buy another kit. Any profits will go into a scholarship fund for our participants future educational needs. These young builders will become mentors for the next build!
Every youth builder gets a “Young Eagle” flight with every 8 build sessions they participate in. Their first flights are taken in our Sling. They really like to see and point out the parts they have been working on! On subsequent flights, our EAA members chip in with their own aircraft to give each builder a chance to fly in a wide variety of aircraft. From Stearman biplanes to Lake Amphibians, taildraggers to retractables, we’re giving them a wide ranging aviation experience. During build sessions we rotate work with simulator time on EAA’s Virtual Flight Instructor Sim program. They get competitive as maneuvers get scored when completed. What’s amazing is how well that sim experience transfers to actual flight. I see tremendous progress when I give them the controls during their Sling rides with me. They develop “the touch” quickly and feel much more at home. I’m giving fewer “rides” now as I can actually give them instruction!
Thanks for all the support! We couldn’t do it without you! We’ll have more to show soon!”