Today I received exciting news about a student aviation program in McKinney, Texas, the McKinney Aviation Program. Many thanks to Phillip Campbell for sending us this inspiring story and a very special thank you to all the volunteers and donors who make this program possible.
It has been said that ladies love taildraggers. As it turns out, ladies love flying AND building taildraggers,
and that is exactly what high school students Natalie Smith, Alaura Kanell, Kaitlyn Chavis, Miranda
Andrews, and Gracie Branson are doing in McKinney, Texas.
The McKinney Independent School District hosts Eagles Nest Projects, a non-profit organization that
uses aviation to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.
Eagle’s Nest Projects began in January, 2010, is in several high schools nationwide, and in McKinney the
students receive high school course with a curriculum developed by AOPA. Eagle’s Nest is all volunteer
mentors, and nationwide has built and flown more than 20 Van’s RV-12 airplanes, all of which were
completed using private funds from generous donors.
In 2020, Eagles Nest Projects and Legend Aircraft Company, partnered in the construction of a student-
built Legend Cub. Legend, based in Sulphur Springs, Texas, is only 50 miles from McKinney. Since 2008, Legend
has sold over 80 of its Cub kits, and building the airplane is a perfect match for the students’ STEM
education. Legend offers several Cub models in both kits and ready-to-fly.
The McKinney classroom supports about 35 students, and five of them are young ladies. The mentors
have noticed a trend over the last five years – “our girls are our best builders.” “We’ve had some great
young men in this program, but our ladies, who are uninhibited by pride and ego, are willing to get their
hands dirty, pay attention to detail, and focus on craftsmanship. All good qualities when building an
airplane” said one mentor. “It is a joy to watch our ladies teach their male counterparts how to build an
In April, 2021, Legend factory employee Rachel Sword joined the students building their Cub. Rachel, a
pilot and flight instructor herself, works in the fabric shop at Legend. Rachel says her favorite part of the
job is flying the Legend MOAC, short for Mother Of All Cubs. When asked about her experiences,
Andrews said “I have thoroughly enjoyed my four years in the McKinney Aviation Academy! All of the
mentors are patient and kind, and will answer any questions you have about what you’re doing and why
you’re doing it. They’ll even take you flying in one of the planes if you’re up for it.” Kanell says “Eagle’s
Nest Projects has played an instrumental part of my life over the past few years. ENP allowed me to
explore different aspects of aviation and has given me multiple opportunities for me to fly planes. This
program has shaped my future as I found a passion for flight and the aerospace industry.”