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Celebrating Its 25th Anniversary

 
 

Aerobility is currently undertaking the mammoth task of building its own aeroplane from scratch: Building the Dream - One Rivet at a Time. The project is the first of its kind in that the aircraft (Zenair CH750 STOL) will be entirely built and flown by a team of disabled people. 

 
 

Building the Dream-One Rivet at a Time.

 
 

The project offers a huge challenge to all of those involved; not only will the aircraft be of huge benefit for daily use by Aerobility once it is completed, but the build process offers a great opportunity for all those involved to learn new skills.

 

 

These skills range from general aviation knowledge, understanding of the practical aspects of aeroplane building, practical use of tools including planning, measuring, cutting, drilling and riveting – aviation manufacturing and engineering principles.

The project is fully inclusive and the build process has been optimized using adjustable height benches and specialist workshop tools in order to ensure that anyone, regardless of ability can be involved.

 

10,000

Number OF RIVETS

 18 - 24 

BUILD TIME (MONTHS)

 

30

NUMBER OF VOLUNTEERS

8

acquired practical SKILLS

 
 
 

We believe that the finished aircraft will most likely be the first aircraft built in the UK by a team of disabled people.

 
 

The completed aircraft will be fully adapted with hand controls, thus ensuring it can be used on a daily basis by our licensed disabled flyers for general aviation practice and additionally may be used to provide therapeutic flying experiences for new and current flyers.

 

 
 
 
 

Latest updates. 

 
 
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And we're off!

Aerobility’s new Frontier

2018 sees Aerobility reach its 25th anniversary, a period for which it has been at the forefront of disabled flying in the UK. Over this time we have built up an expertise in the training of pilots with disabilities through our own flight training operations. We provide unlimited access to aircraft using hoists, and can our equip aircraft with hand controls for use by persons unable to use their legs. In short, we are the UK centre of excellence when it comes to all matters related to disabled flying. All of this has been achieved with a user led organisation; many of our key personnel and volunteers have impairments. Inclusivity is the cornerstone of what we do. We try (and usually succeed) to make all aspects of our operation available to everyone.

In all these years we have successfully managed a small fleet of aircraft, ensuring that the maintenance and care of our fleet is carried out as and when required to the highest standards. However, regulations dictate that much of this work must be carried out by an approved maintenance organisation. But what if we could do this work ourselves?

What if we were able to maintain our own aircraft? In fact, What if we could build our own aircraft, from scratch? What opportunities would this present for our organisation? What would it mean for our members?

So we took the leap…. We embraced the idea of building our own Aeroplane with the true belief that it must enhance our involvement with aircraft, engineering and aviation understanding. It would provide the opportunity to learn, to develop new practical skills and ultimately provide a new, economical airplane that could be used daily for years to come.

During the last few months we have extensively researched the kit aeroplane market, spoken to many manufacturers and sought the advice of previous builders and the LAA. Based on this research and our own extensive experience of working with disabled people, we have chosen to build a Zenair CH750 STOL. The CH750 is of metal construction, chosen over a fabric skin as it will provide much more durability, especially given the methods employed by some of our disabled flyers to enter and exit the aircraft! We already have a very supportive relationship with the UK distributor Metal Seagulls and the potential for adding adaptive controls is large. The process of designing and certifying changes to the original design is so much easier with permit aircraft. This will enable us to fit the aircraft with multiple modifications so ensuring that its controls are accessible and useable by people of all ability, regardless of impairment.

Setting the Ball Rolling

As 2017 comes to a close, the workshop begins to take shape and the reality that it will soon be filled with Aeroplane parts takes hold. Our Ex-British Airways engineer, John Hirst has worked exceptionally hard to transform our simple aircraft hangar into a functioning workshop, suitable to house the build. He has constructed two large workbenches, adjustable in size and height, specifically to accommodate wheelchair users. There are pillar drilling stations, mounted on low height benches along with whiteboards and a PC with Flat screen monitor that can be used to show build plans and websites that will assist with the project. We have moved in secure lockers, tool storage and LED floodlighting but most importantly, a radio and a kettle!

Building the Dream Team

The next stage was to get people involved. A successful first meeting in December brought together 32 volunteers, all eager to stuck in to the build. The first real look at the aircraft kit took place on the 18th & 19th December, when we undertook a training package with Jonathan and Patricia from Metal Seagulls. During the two-day course, 18 of our volunteers learnt about aviation fabrication and the practical skills that would be required for the build. After lots of Measuring, Marking, Re-measuring, Re –marking, De-burring, more Re-measuring and Marking, Drilling, Cleco’ing, back Drilling, Cleco’ing, De-burring (again) and finally riveting, we completed the rudder which will eventually be fitted to our aircraft. With training complete the team were gelling and excitement building in anticipation of the full aircraft kit arriving.

The Real Beginning

26th February saw the arrival of our Aeroplane. The next few days were a rush of unpacking, cataloguing, storing, coffee and more unpacking. The new workshop shelving was filled top to bottom with aircraft sheet metal and parts. In what seemed like the blink of an eye,

construction had begun. Volunteers had arranged themselves into daily build teams, with Alan Lovejoy and Derek Rosam taking an early lead in the race to put in the most hours! The first stage was to construct the rear fuselage of the aircraft. Just akin to the construction of flat-pack furniture (which is always a test of even the strongest relationship), there were a few lessons to be learnt, notably that each side of the aircraft is different! After a couple of attempts and a few rouge rivets, we now have a completed rear fuselage, which takes pride of place in the hangar and serves to provide a physical image of size and shape of the final aeroplane.

With a little help from our friends

From the start of the build, the generosity and support towards the project has been tremendous. Some truly magnificent folk have donated their time, resources and energy in order to ensure the project got off to the best start. Everything from tools to teabags have been donated. We must thank Mrs Carol Whittaker for the kind offer to donate her late husbands tools and similarly thank Martin Love and his team at Camberely signs who, despite being extremely busy, powder coated our flight control parts, free of charge.

Huge thanks must also go to Rotax UK, as the aircraft will be powered by one of their lightweight 912is type 3 engines. The proven economies of this generation of aircraft engine will enable us to fulfil our ethos of ensuring that flying is not only physically accessible, but also economically accessible.

Moving Forward

The build is progressing at great pace and the first test of our engineering skill is approaching; with the first inspection by our LAA inspector looming in the next few weeks. Providing all is sound we will look to move on to the construction of the forward fuselage, which will include the mounting of the firewall and rear baggage hold. At this point we will also be able to mount the fuselage on the undercarriage, making it much easier to move around our workshop. We are also now looking into the avionics suite that we want to fit to the finished aircraft. The hope is to fully kit it out with digital instrumentation, including moving map facility and traffic collision avoidance system, thus maximising the potential lifespan of the airplane and providing the most up to date technology for our flyers.

As a charity, we are always looking for volunteers and would love to see new people getting involved in our projects.

What could YOU do to get involved?

* Become a volunteer

* Sponsor an aircraft part – Donate £10 to £10,000

* Bring a group and take part in a ‘Build’ day

Donate now at - www.aerobility.com/I-want-to-help/donate.php

For further information or to register as a volunteer please contact dream@aerobility.com

 

 

 

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