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Why I'm Rebuilding a Warbird with Kids in My Community

At 25 and fresh out of aviation mechanic school with nothing but school debt, I started an airplane repair business with my eye squarely set on...

At 25 and fresh out of aviation mechanic school with nothing but school debt, I started an airplane repair business with my eye squarely set on restoring big warbirds in Brighton, Michigan. I met Director of Aeronca Aircraft History Museum, Todd Trainor, who let me use his airport workshop for my business. I helped Todd organize the Aeronca Aircraft History Museum that preserved the history of antique civilian aircraft and later landed a full-time restoration project on a rare 1940 WWII training aircraft.

All the while, I recognized that other youth like me were born to love aviation. Fortunately for those youth in the community, Todd and I like to share our passion with them by inviting them to the restoration workshop after school and on weekends. We mentor them about the history of old airplanes, teach them workshop disciplines, and educate them in the skilled trades. While the average teenager may be playing video games, these kids are being empowered to learn valuable life skills that they can apply to mechanics. They also learn to appreciate history.

It is especially thrilling when a few of the local veterans that flew bombers in WWII visit the workshop and share their stories of courage to the younger generation about battling the Axis of Evil to protect the freedoms we enjoy today. We’ve opened the restoration workshop to the local aviation chapter meetings, held open houses to educate the public about aviation, and conducted group tours of the workshop. Volunteers of any age are frequently seen in the workshop helping with our projects and we enjoy passing on our knowledge to others in the community.

Now 29, I’m still living on a ramen noodle budget, but I’ve taken advantage of an opportunity to buy my first B-25 parts, which I discovered on eBay. The volunteers and youth in the workshop are thrilled to be able to work on WWII B-25 parts, but in January of 2013, when we discovered that a wrecked B-25 in Alaska called Sandbar Mitchell could be recovered from its 1969 crash site, we saw an opportunity to work on an even bigger project. Ownership was obtained and permits acquired, but now we have to fund the recovery.

With ten other volunteers from the community, including a 15-year-old, we will depart for Alaska on June 22 to recover the B-25 bomber. This is the ultimate field trip to learn about aviation history, and if you’d like to join us, consider supporting our Kickstarter campaign.

This project will be featured in GOOD's Saturday series Push for Good—our guide to crowdfunding creative progress.

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