While many teenagers have been spending their half term breaks catching up on sleep and computer games, 15-year-old Paul Cox from Lisburn has been tackling something altogether more memorable.
Paul is one of sixty Air Cadets from across Northern Ireland working together to build a Sting S4 plane at Ulster Aviation Society’s Lisburn hangar.
The year-long project ‘Centennial Wings’, supported by funding from Boeing and the Air League, is giving the talented teens the opportunity to build a plane from scratch. The completed two-seater aircraft will be capable of a maximum speed of 177 miles per hour. To add to the challenge, the plane must be ready to fly over to The Royal International Air Tattoo, the world’s largest military air show, this July.
As that all-important Summer deadline approaches, the pace of work is hotting up and so, too, is the Cadets’ enthusiasm for the task.
Paul Cox who is a member of the 817 (Lisburn) Squadron said: “Building a plane is a unique opportunity and I can’t imagine it’s something I’ll ever get to do again.
“It’s been great fun but it’s also been a lot of hard work and a massive learning experience for all of us. It’s been giving us all a different view of the STEM subjects we’re taking at school as Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths all seem much more interesting and relevant when you get to apply them to building a real plane!”
Wing Commander Mike Miskimmin, Officer Commanding Northern Ireland Wing RAF Air Cadets, is delighted to see local Air Cadets involved in a key project to mark the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Royal Air Force and he is impressed at the skill and enthusiasm which the teenagers have brought to the demanding task, guided and supported by the Ulster Aviation Society and engineers from Boeing UK.
He added: “No matter what we throw at them, our Cadets always rise to the challenge, combining a great sense of fun with an incredible appetite for learning. I have watched with admiration as these young people have put their STEM subjects to use in the most dramatic way possible, plus they have taken on a wide range of new, practical skills.
“The Cadets have also sharpened up their team and leadership skills and can look forward to their hard work and determination paying off in fine style when their plane is on display at the world-famous RIAT show. As they build their plane, they are also laying down firm foundations for their next steps in education … and stocking up some priceless memories into the bargain.”
Paul’s Detachment - 817 (Lisburn) Squadron Air Cadets, which meets at 7pm on Thursday evenings at 4a Conway Street in Lisburn, is currently on a membership drive. It may be too late for newcomers to sign up for the build-a-plane project, but the Squadron promises no shortage of high-flying adventure, camaraderie and achievements for new members.