Trainee engineers at Milton Keynes College are plotting a Europe-wide first, by building a full-sized light aircraft.
The group began the two-year project after receiving a kit from local businessman David Stubbs, who wanted to get young people involved in the project in memory of his father who was a skilled welder.
And the scheme has been such a success already that he already expects to buy them another kit once this one is finished.
Sean Hainsworth, who is lead engineer on the project, said: “The students are really throwing themselves into this and we’re really grateful to David for giving us the opportunity to build it.
“Constructing an aircraft provides for training in so many different engineering skills and it’s so exciting for them, knowing that something they have made will one day take to the skies.”
Aircraft engineering is in the blood of the department’s staff; two are former RAF, one in bomb disposal and Sean served as an aircraft technician.
The £65,000 machine, a VANS RV7A will be called, The Spirit of Milton Keynes and will have G-SOMK as its call sign, and the high-performance engine will make it amongst the fastest and most powerful of the model in the world.
David Stubbs said: “I was so pleased when Milton Keynes College said they would take on the challenge after we’d been introduced by the Light Aircraft Association who’ve been really helpful from the start.
“I wanted it to inspire young people who may not be the best in the world at exams but who can discover how satisfying and worthwhile it is to do something with their hands.
“I know the students will learn so much from building the aircraft and I can’t wait to take them all up in it so they can experience their work in action. The government tells us that Britain needs engineers, and if this doesn’t inspire the students to do great things in the future I can’t imagine what would.”
Over the last 12 months engineering has taken several bounds forward at MK College. In the academic year 2012/13 the department had a 56 per cent success rate; in 2013/14 the figure was 86 per cent, above the national average. The courses are also enormously over-subscribed, with between 60-100 students being turned away last September.