Forget about your Squirtles and your Pikachu, whilst most youngsters are spending their summer holidays chasing Pokemon or engrossed in computer games, over 60 cadets from across Northern Ireland, including a number from Squadron 2350 (Coleraine), are spending their weekends building a plane.
The cadets from 17 units are part of the Northern Ireland Wing of the Air Training Corps who are currently working together to build a Sting S4 plane at Ulster Aviation Society’s Lisburn hangar.
The project - Centennial Wings, which has been supported by funding from Boeing and the Air League, is in the early stages and cadets are working on the aircraft to ensure it will be ready to fly at Farnborough Air Show in 2018 to mark the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Royal Air Force.
Sir Michael Arthur, president, Boeing Europe and managing director, Boeing UK commented: “These young men and women are the future of our industry and I could not be more proud that we can support this engaging, hands-on STEM initiative.”
The Sting S4 ultralight aircraft is being built from kit, under the guidance of Sqn Ldr Ian Campbell, Wg Cdr Mike Miskimmin, volunteers from the Ulster Aviation Society as well as Boeing engineers who will also mentor the programme.
The two-seater plane will have a state-of-the-art system of controls and instruments installed and when completed the aircraft will be capable of a maximum speed of 177 miles per hour.
Project Officer Aaron Coulter commented on the project which is expected to take a year to complete: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the cadets who are taking part and a first for cadets from Northern Ireland.
“They have all been greatly enthused by the project, it’s not everyday kids get the opportunity to build an aircraft.”
Farnborough Airshow is described as ‘the world’s greatest airshow’ and the cadets will be in Hampshire to see their aircraft presented.
“The project team will all be over at Farnborough,” added Aaron. “Our cadets travel to the Royal International Air Tattoo every year but cadets in Northern Ireland don’t get the opportunity to go to Farnborough so it will be a great experience to see the aircraft will fly at the airshow and also be on display for people to look at.”
The biennial Farnborough Airshow alternates with the Paris Airshow.
With about 1,500 exhibitors and some 100,000 trade visitors, Farnborough’s pulling power remains huge.
It has played a key role as a marketplace for Britain’s aerospace and defence firms.
The 17 squadrons involved in the project are: 72 (Omagh), 806 (Larne), 814 (Portadown College), 817 (Lisburn), 825 (Bangor), 833 (Antrim), 1134 (West Belfast), 1136 (South Belfast), 1137 (East Belfast), 1919 (Newtownabbey), 2004 (Ballynahinch), 2062 (Carrickfergus), 2178 (Hollywood), 2241 (Regent House School), 2349 (Ballymena), 2350 (Coleraine), 2390 (Belfast Royal Academy).