High school students of both public and private schools in Tehachapi and surrounding areas were given the opportunity to learn how to build their own plane.

The Build a Plane project recently celebrated its first anniversary, with much progress made on the full-sized plane, which is being built from a kit and housed in a hangar at Tehachapi Municipal Airport.

Mentors from Tehachapi Society of Pilots meet with students twice a week and offer free classes to help them learn about aviation during the process of building the plane.

"When we got the kit, we did the inventory then started the build process," said mentor Gary Childress. "Right now the wings are 99 percent done."

Currently, 16 students are registered to help in the building of the $85,000 Zenith CH 750 Cruzer two-seater airplane. The funding to make this possible has been acquired through the Arts, Science and Technology Educational Corp. of Tehachapi and gives students firsthand knowledge of mechanics and rules of aviation.

"Right now, we are working on the electronics,” said Paul Nafziger, project manager for the classes. He added, “We got all the instruments in now, and will be getting the cable in here soon."

Several students like Morgan Searles, 17, of Valley Oaks Charter School, were interested in getting their pilots license sometime in the future. He said he has been with the project since its inception.

Home schooler Maghen Faltzman, 16, said she has been with the project since October, but spent her first day wiring Jan. 28.

"I just came because I thought it was a great opportunity to learn and the love for flying has come afterward," Faltzman said.

Drew Robles, 16, who is also home schooled, said he plans to go into the Air Force Academy upon graduation to pursue a career as an Air Force pilot.

"This offers great knowledge to learn about different things and just getting experience if I want to become a pilot or avionics engineer," said Chris Minor, 15, who is also home schooled.

Nafziger said the plane should be finished in about six months.

"The kids are doing a great job," he said. "The workmanship is just beautiful."

According to mentor John Tumilowicz, the Tehachapi Society of Pilots takes students flying after 12 hours of instruction as part of the Young Eagles Program.

"Over the last 20 years, we have flown over two million kids," said Tumilowicz.

The Tehachapi Society of Pilots is a nonprofit organization that is arranged with the purpose of providing education to students in the aviation field. It gives scholarships for those entering college and its members serve as ambassadors for the local airport.