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Students restore airplane for flying lessons

A group of dedicated high school students is making good progress in the restoration of a Stits Skycoupe.A group of dedicated high school students is making good progress in the restoration of a Stits Skycoupe. (Left to right are Leland Spearman, Alex Lemke, Nathan Sandoval, Christian Krause, Al Gester, and Jonathan Lane. Not shown are Kyle Appleberry and Jacob Hilger.)

For the past two years a group of seven California high school students has gathered at a small hangar on Flabob Airport at Riverside, Calif., to restore a 1963 Skycoupe. Designed by Ray Stits, the Skycoupe was one of the earliest designs offered to homebuilders and members of the Experimental Aircraft Association.

When dug out of the rafters of an old hangar at Flabob, project leader Al Gester said it looked like it had been in a wreck, though closer examination showed it just suffered from many years of neglect and rough handling. The Skycoupe had to be dismantled, cleaned up, repaired, and then brought back to the original configuration. The students have re-covered the tail group, readied the wings for re-covering, and are putting the hardware and wooden stringers back onto the fuselage in anticipation of re-covering.

Gester, who is retired from the Air Force, estimates completion of the project may take another two years. In the meantime, students who log a certain number of hours earn subsidized flight lessons. Four of the students are currently working on their private certificates.

February 19, 2010

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