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Teens fly high with the Southern Arizona Teen Aviation program

After school program teaches students how to build planes in a supportive setting
Posted at 11:11 PM, Mar 18, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-19 02:11:54-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Tucson and Southern Arizona have the fifth highest concentration of aerospace careers in the nation.

Now a program targeting Tucson-area high schools is training the next generation of aerospace and aviation professionals.

On a Monday night, teens fill a garage, heads down and focused. They rivet, weld, saw and study plans.

This is every Monday night for Alan Muhs, who co-founded the Southern Arizona Teen Aviation (SATA) program.

The program was started in 2016 to give high school students interested in aviation an alternative to the classroom. Students began working on the planes in 2017.

You won’t find books, blackboards or textbooks here, as students get hands-on training in every aspect of building an aluminum airplane.

Students work in groups of two to three, studying plans and instructions to build different components like wings, the tail section and fuselage.

Mentors, including current and former pilots, aerospace engineers and mechanics, work with the students, providing guidance but largely allowing students autonomy over the project.

Muhs says that the program teaches skills beyond the practical use of tools.

“They have developed a long way, all of them, in learning how to work independently, work with the others as well,” Muhs says. “But they know how to get it done and enjoy it while they’re doing it.”

Currently, the students are working on their second airplane, a Van’s Aircraft RV12. Muhs says it takes about two years to complete an entire plane.

The program is now open for registration although there are only limited spots available. SATA is particularly looking for high school sophomores, juniors and seniors.

Students can register on the program's website.