By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN Not many teens can say they’ve built an airplane, but after two years and about 21,000 rivets, the hard work of Jacob Carlson, Jordan Ziermann, Jansen Weckman, and Amanda Hipp is paying off.
The RV-12 experimental light-sport aircraft passed its safety inspection Dec. 20 with flying colors, and will soon be used for flight lessons.
“I think I learned more than the students did,” laughed pilot Marty Ziermann, who organized and funded the plane-building program as a way to expose young people to aviation.
Excitement in the air
Now that the plane is complete, each participant will have the opportunity to do 20 hours of flying lessons with Darrin Mason of Mason Air, a certified flight school at the Winsted Municipal Airport.
“There’s no charge for the use of the airplane; students pay for gas and instructor time,” Ziermann said.
For Carlson, the son of Bob and Robin Carlson of Mayer, these flight lessons will be the first step toward his career goal.
“I’ve always felt I wanted to be a pilot,” Carlson said, adding that after he graduates from Mayer Lutheran High School in the spring, he plans to go to college for commercial aviation.
Weckman, a senior at Hutchinson High School, is also planning a future in flight.
“After I graduate, I plan to join the military for helicopter mechanics,” he said.
Weckman won’t be able to take advantage of the flight lessons because he leaves mid-summer, but he still hopes to go up in the RV-12 at some point.
He was first exposed to aviation by his father, Jim, whose hobby is building and repairing planes. Jim shares a rented hanger at the Winsted airport, and Weckman stops to visit any chance he gets.
Aviation is also part of Hipp’s family, who lives in Henderson. Hipp’s father, Scott, is an airplane and helicopter mechanic at Scott’s Helicopter Services in Le Sueur, and Hipp’s grandfather is a pilot.
“Marty’s a good friend of my grandpa’s,” Hipp said, explaining how she learned about the airplane-build program in Winsted.
Marty’s grandson, Jordan Ziermann, was also involved in the project. Jordan, a junior at Lester Prairie High School, is looking forward to his 20 hours of flight training in order to earn his sport pilot certificate.
Piece by piece
As for building the plane, Jordan said Marty’s help made the project go very smoothly.
“It takes a lot of time to put a plane together, and it’s a lot of responsibility to make sure everything is done correctly,” he added.
Students typically met Saturday mornings from 8 a.m. to noon.
“I would come in the day before to study what we were going to be doing,” Marty said.
The RV-12 airplane kit Marty purchased from Van’s Aircraft included a step-by-step instruction book with detailed computer-generated drawings, all necessary hardware, and all metal parts pre-punched with fastener holes. For added reference, Marty also purchased a video showing the plane being constructed.
“Marty would show us what to do, and he’d guide us along the way,” Carlson said.
“I learned how to work better with a group, and I learned how to read the plans,” Weckman added.
Once the build was complete, Marty and Garland Mickolichek of Mayer painted the plane white and iridescent purple.
“It took us, I would say, three months just for painting,” said Marty, who also runs his own business, Marty’s Excavating in Mayer.
Will Marty organize another plane-building course in the future?
“I better not answer that yet,” he said, but admitted that it’s definitely a possibility.
“I would do it again,” Weckman said.