Raising Aspirations through Aviation – read our evaluation report of the Schools Build-a-Plane Challenge

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Farnborough GSBAP preview

In 2008, the Schools Build-a-Plane Challenge (SBAP) was launched by the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS), supported by Boeing and with assistance from the Light Aircraft Association (LAA), with the aim of providing an ambitious and innovative programme to enable six secondary schools the opportunity to build a real light aircraft from kit to Permit to Fly status, offering the chance to fly in their completed aircraft as well as showcase their achievements to the general public through exhibiting at air shows and other public events and inspire others into STEM and aviation.

As our programme draws to a close, we have set out to evaluate how the SBAP Challenge met the objectives set at the outset, how effectively the programme was run, the impact it has made on the pupils and the wider community and lessons learnt which can be applied to future programmes.

SBAP Evaluation Front Cover

Six schools were involved in leading build-a-plane projects in their areas, some also working in partnership with other local schools:

  • Yateley school, Hampshire with its partner schools, Court Moor School and Kings College in Guildford, was the first school to receive their aircraft kit in 2009.
  • Marling School, Gloucestershire with its partner school, Stroud High School, was the second school to receive their aircraft kit.
  • Bridge Learning Campus, Hartcliffe, near Bristol, was the third school to receive their kit in 2010.
  • Ercall Wood Technology College, Shropshire, with assistance from Phoenix School, was the fourth school to receive its aircraft kit in 2011.
  • Ormiston NEW Academy, Wolverhampton, was the fifth school to receive its kit in 2012.
  • Ernesford Grange Community Academy, Coventry, was the sixth and final school in the programme to receive its kit in 2012.

Key findings include the significant impact that building a light aircraft has had on pupils not only in terms of STEM learning, but also on developing softer skills, particularly teamwork and communication skills. This is due in part to the wider public engagement programme that the schools supported, taking their builds to a variety of major public events including air shows and STEM fairs where they showcased their work to the general public. In many cases these activities had a major impact in developing participating pupils’ confidence and sense of pride in their achievements. Yateley and Marling Schools also made aviation history when their aircraft flew at the Farnborough International Air Show in 2014, the first planes built by schools to fly at the show, followed by the Ercall Wood aircraft in 2016.

Building G-EGCA

Another key benefit has been the impact of bringing together the programme volunteers, mainly retired engineers, pilots and aviation enthusiasts from the RAeS and LAA who were keen to give back to their local school community. Many pupils spoke about their appreciation for the guidance and support they received from the volunteers, while for the volunteers themselves, the programme helped combat loneliness and provided them with a fulfilling activity and more positive outlook in their retirement.

The report also highlights the positive impact for the schools involved, in particular increasing teachers’ awareness and confidence in engineering and the application of STEM subjects and working more closely with the local community, including local businesses and members of the RAeS and LAA. Many of these relationships have continued post-SBAP.

G-NEWA move to Halfpenny

In ‘lessons learnt’ some key issues have been identified such as the need for the engineering community to better understand the role of teachers and head teachers and the challenges they face in delivering real life engineering experiences alongside other external performance targets, particularly league tables and education inspections which generally put exam results first.

Nonetheless, from the perspective of a charity like the RAeS, the impact that SBAP has had, not only in developing pupils’ STEM skills and interest, but also through imparting some of the ‘values’ of aviation such as having a safety mindset and working within an ‘honesty culture’ environment has inspired the RAeS to continue with similar projects which provide hands-on engineering opportunities and also demonstrate the power of aviation to bring communities together and change lives.

Next steps – new Schools programme with Boeing and Aerobility

The RAeS was delighted to announce our new partnership with Boeing and renowned disabled flying charity Aerobility at this year’s Farnborough Air Show to launch a new flight simulator design and build project for secondary schools this Autumn which can be used by people with different disabilities. We will be putting into practice many of the lessons learnt from the Schools Build-a-Plane Challenge and continuing to bring together education and aviation to support young people from all backgrounds. This will be a very exciting project combining many different elements of STEM as well as the opportunity to demonstrate how aviation can bring communities together and provide a platform for young people to develop key soft skills including teamwork, safety mindset and empathy.

Watch this space!


Raising Aspirations through Aviation – Evaluation of the Schools Build-a-Plane Challenge is available at the Royal Aeronautical Society website. Click here to download the full report. For a FREE printed copy please send your name and postal address to Rosalind Azouzi (details below).

More information about the Schools Build-a-Plane Challenge is on the Royal Aeronautical Society website and in our films and documentary on YouTube.

Press release: Boeing, Royal Aeronautical Society and Aerobility Launch New STEM
Build Challenge to increase accessibility to flying for disabled people


Rosalind Azouzi

Head of Skills and Careers

Royal Aeronautical Society

E: rosalind.azouzi@aerosociety.com

T: 020 7670 4325 | 07824 512941

GWFT in air