Flight Club Aerospace — The first student run aviation program


Photo courtesy of Ollie Krause

Flight Club member Rudy Lee carves the wing of an ultralight aircraft.

Tobias Matthews, Staff Reporter

While many hobbies and interests have been suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic, a select few students at Burlingame High School have flourished in Flight Club Aerospace. This completely student run aviation club is one of the first to build a legal and fully functional aircraft.

“It’s really a crazy project if you think about it,” senior at Burlingame Aaron Becker said. “It’s a bunch of high school students saying ‘let’s build a plane!’”.

The club is attempting to build an Ultralight aircraft, the smallest classification of an aircraft by the Experimental Aircraft Association. There is no internal adult leadership or involvement in the group, though the members routinely meet with experts to assure the safety of the project. The ambitious project is a collaboration between high school students across the Bay Area with varying degrees of experience in engineering and aviation. The club has raised over 17 thousand dollars and involves over 25 students. With that being said, the magnitude of this project comes with a lot of responsibility for the students involved.

Photo courtesy of Ollie Krause

“One of the most important things is consulting industry professionals,” junior at Lick-Wilmerding High School Matt Gibson said. “We’ve put months and months of research into our course of action before going through with our plans.”

The project uses both simulations and real world tests to verify that the project is as safe as possible, but it still carries risks.

 “This project is more math than design, I want to stress that we are being as safe as we possibly can,” Gibson said.

The group’s precautionary tests include collecting hundreds of pounds of sand to test the structural integrity of the wings and using software to simulate  actions countless times prior to any real world tests.

The unique student-run quality of the group attracts many of its members. “I love working with people who are as motivated as me to do something new and crazy like this,” Becker said. 

This collaboration utilizes the technical skills of its members and the enthusiasm of new members to achieve its goals. Many members of the club see this freedom as an opportunity to lead, teach and learn. 

“Anyone in the club can really take initiative, there’s no adult that is assuming the responsibilities,” student at Lick-Wilmerding Jamie Marwell said.

The members commit a minimum of six hours a week, but many leaders within the club will commit 15 to 20 hours per week to the club. The commitment is large, but the members hope that their hard work will pay off once they get an aircraft in the sky. They also hope that the club can extend into the future and be a place where high schoolers interested in the STEM field can learn from one another for years to come.

“We’re always looking for new members; no matter what experience you have, please come join,” Becker said.