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Is it possible to build a plane in a week?

July 25, 2018
GE Aviation engineer Mark Johnson doesn’t need palm trees or a view of the ocean for a week away from the job. His career is his passion, which is why he is spending his July vacation helping a team of volunteers build an aircraft from the ground up in only one week.

It’s all part of the festivities at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. For one week every summer, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) — an international community of over 200,000 members — hosts it’s AirVenture show for more than 500,000 people from around 80 countries. Over 10,000 aircrafts of all different types fly in, making Wittman Regional Airport the busiest airport in the world this week.

One of the most talked about events at AirVenture is the One-Week Wonder. Thousands of volunteers will attempt to build an airplane in only one week. This event occurred once before in 2014 and is back by popular demand. More than 2,500 people participated in 2014, successfully completing a Zenith CH 750 by the final afternoon of the show. This aircraft still flies today and visits many aviation events around the country.

This year, the plane that is being built is a Van’s RV-12iS. This aircraft was chosen because of its ease of construction, popularity, and smooth flying characteristics.

Construction began at 8:00 am on Monday, July 23, with the goal to complete the aircraft by the end of the afternoon airshow on Sunday, July 29. To reach this goal, the people involved are broken up into separate teams to work on different parts of the aircraft simultaneously.

The more experienced builders will take components and work on the base construction, while some of the easier work will be assigned to those with less experience. This provides a great opportunity for people who are interested in aviation and manufacturing to gain some first-hand experience, and also gives encouragement to first-time builders.

Johnson standing next to the aircraft the team of volunteers is building, a RV-12iS. Johnson is building a similar model at his home.

Mark’s experience will bode well for the group. He has been at GE Aviation for over 18 years and is currently working on the CFM LEAP HPT rotor design. He supports manufacturing as well as new design introductions.

Mark has been building his own RV-12 in his garage since 2013. What started out as just a box of parts being sent via mail has transformed over the years into nearly a fully-functional aircraft.

Mark, who at one time doubted whether he could take on such a large project, decided to join the One-Week Wonder to learn more about completing a homebuilt aircraft.

“I joined this project because I wanted to see a plane built from beginning to end, just as reassurance for myself that it is possible. I also wanted to discover some new techniques for finishing my plane.”

Mark is also a member of GE Aviation Evendale’s Pilot Advocacy Group (PAG) - a group of pilots and aviation enthusiasts located in Cincinnati that hold monthly meetings and socials where pilots can get to know each other better, share their passion for flying, and learn from each other. Some of the members of this group will also be up at Oshkosh this week.

We will be checking back in on Mark’s progress later in the week. Keep up with Oshkosh by following us on Instagram and Twitter for updates all week long!

Follow GE Aviation on Twitter and Instagram for the latest from OshKosh.

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