LASALLE — This fall when the teacher asks some students in Illinois Valley area schools what they did for summer vacation, they’ll have a somewhat unique answer.
They built a plane.
“It’s an ultralight plane; a Quicksilver 25 Sport,” Fred Marquardt, one of the advisers said.
High school students from Bureau, LaSalle and Putnam County high schools responded to a general call for youth interested in a chance to build and fly an airplane.
The plane came in several pieces; the smaller pieces attached to large cardboard sheets by vacuum-sealed plastic. The engine came separate and pre-assembled, while the framework for the plane was shipped in six large packages — two of which were for the wrong plane and had to be shipped back, causing a delay in construction.
Sprawled about the hanger bay the club — no formal name has been attached to the project — is using for assembly, it resembles a model kit but for the size. The construction manual is larger than a local phone book and — thankfully — fully illustrated.
Illinois Valley Regional Airport has generously loaned the club the use of a hangar bay for construction purposes, although the plane will have to go to a different hangar when it is closer to completion.
Ken Pisarczyk of the Carus Corporation oversees the construction, but the idea for the club came from higher up in the organization.
“The genesis came from Peter Limberger. He just moved here from Europe and is married to Inge Carus,” Pisarczyk said. “He’s an avid flyer. He has two stunt planes out here, a biplane and the corporate jet, and he’s interested in promoting flying and getting young kids involved, so we can get a flying club going and have some continuity and excitement about flying.” Limberger donated the plane to the club.
The team of 30-plus advisers and teens began construction in late May, although shipping misfortunes and other delays have diminished the number of people involved. The goal was to have the plane up and running before summer’s end, but Pisarczyk isn’t holding his breath, estimating construction will take between 60 and 100 hours total.
Once the construction is completed, the club members will be briefed and tested on the plane so they can eventually fly their handiwork over the fields of the Illinois Valley. The plane has to pass an FFA inspection, and each student will need to pass a 25-hour instruction course before taking to the air.
“The plane’s a two-seater,” Pisarczyk said. “That was no accident. We purposely wanted one so those of us with pilot’s licenses could teach the students how to fly in actual practice.”