Local Indigenous high school students from Portage Collegiate Institute and Westpark School are teaming up to build an airplane. Eagles Wings Flight School Board Chair and Flight Instructor Joshua Cordery says he had it in his mind when they started up the flight training four years ago. 

"I always thought it'd be neat to build one sometime and wouldn't it be neat to fly the one we build?" says Joshua. "As the years developed, the timing became right. We had the right amount of support and we thought it would be a good time to try and start this program so that we can perhaps reach kids over a longer period of time. But it was also for kids who maybe weren't interested in flying or just had like a mechanical interest that may be flying, maybe not, but were interested in building a plane."

Volunteer Program Coordinator Ashleigh Cordery adds this year is their fourth summer running the flying program for two weeks. He explains they bring kids in from across Southern Manitoba who stay in a hotel and undertake extremely super intensive and compressed training. 

"This is a way we thought we could really reach kids here in town whom we're going to run into,"' continues Ashleigh. "We do this over a longer period and really just like get to know them and pour into them." 

The build has already started, but it's just the beginning. They explain they've spent two weeks so far, it's impressive how much progress the students have made. 

"It looks like the frame of an airplane, which is awesome," explains Joshua. "We've been gathering for six weeks total. For the first four weeks, the airplane arrival was delayed for a number of different reasons, so we were teaching basic skills. We did some lock wire and some riveting, how to set a torque wrench; those types of things. We had a couple of sessions at Red River College Stevenson Campus where the instructors led us through some of these techniques. So, we've been learning and meeting for six weeks."

Cordery says they're not hard-pressed for a completion date, but it's just great to meet the kids during the process. It may be a year or two. 

Ashleigh notes Eagles Wings is a registered charity comprised of a volunteer board of directors who are all volunteering their time. 

"We have a heart specifically for at-risk youth and particularly in our community and Portage, for at-risk Indigenous youth," adds Ashleigh.

If students are interested and attend Westpark school or PCI Roving Campus, they're recruiting again in September, noting classes are full at the moment.