Pastor-Pilot Helping Alaska Kids Build Plane

Post a Comment » Written on October 2nd, 2008     
Filed under: News
HOOPER BAY, AK (October 2, 2008) – An article in the current issue of Alaska Magazine focuses on the work of Grant Funk, pastor of Hooper Bay Covenant Church, who is guiding students as they build an airplane.

Hooper Bay, which can only be reached by airplane, has a population of 1,000 people. It is located more than 500 miles west of Anchorage and is on the shores of the Bering Sea.

It is not a place someone might expect to find an airplane being built, let alone by high school students.

The students are constructing the Thorp T-211 from a kit supplied by a California nonprofit group called Build A Plane (BAP). Plane owners and builders donate the kits so students can learn technical skills that will enable them to get jobs after graduation. The pieces were shipped for free from India and Dallas, Texas.

The Thorp T-211 is widely praised for its safety and considered ideal for work in the Alaska bush. It also has a simple design.

A flight school that trains commercial pilots recommended Funk to BAP when they were looking for a location and someone to instruct the students. He previously had tried to get local students interested in aviation by teaching a course on the subject.

The pastor brings other essential experience to the project: he is a certified flight instructor. Funk also has built a full-size replica of a Super Cub.

He is grateful for the opportunity to guide the students in the BAP project. “I was in the right place at the right time,” Funk said.

Getting new people involved is critical because much of the bush can be reached only by airplane, but the aviation industry suffers a lack of pilots and mechanics in Alaska. Weeks may pass before a mechanic is available to fix an airplane.

Funk believes the new program is a step toward solving that problem. It also is a step toward alleviating poverty, which is widespread in many bush communities.

Wages earned by the pilots and the mechanics stay in the villages. The flight school that recommended Funk estimates that every trained Alaskan pilot contributes $500,000 in economic growth to their villages over a period of 10 years.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Report This Post

Leave a Reply

Report This Blog