MTC Apprentices Reach For the Skies

Project Slingshot gives apprentices the chance to build an aeroplane

High-flying apprentices at the Manufacturing Technology Centre are getting the chance to build major components for an airworthy light aeroplane in an initiative to give them valuable manufacturing experience.

The apprentice team is celebrating after completing the first stage of the project - a critical structure for the left wing. They plan to have both left and right wing assemblies complete by September, along with the aircraft's fuel tanks.

Apprentices from the MTC’s Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre in Coventry are part of a consortium that includes students at Aston University Engineering Academy and the Royal Air Force, working on Project Slingshot – the Air League’s aircraft building initiative which seeks to deliver STEM learning through building light aircraft.

David Grailey, managing director of MTC Training, said, “This is a fantastic opportunity for our apprentices to put what they are learning into practice on a really exciting collaborative project, as well as gaining real insight into aviation manufacture so early in their careers."

“Learners are able to contribute the skills they have already gained through their programme while practicing additional skills such as project management and teamwork alongside other apprentices and more seasoned engineers. I have no doubt that the extra skills and experiences they are gaining through Project Slingshot will enrich their learning journey and prove invaluable throughout their future careers,” he added.

Supported by the Department for Transport, Project Slingshot will result in the manufacture of an airworthy Sling 2 aircraft for cadet and youth flying training and the delivery of Air League flying scholarships.

The project will give MTC Training's apprentices an insight into a career in aerospace and aircraft manufacture, as they gain hands-on experience by building the aircraft assemblies to a professional standard. The assemblies will be shipped to RAF Cosford for final assembly into a complete aircraft. After approval by a light aircraft association inspector the aircraft will take to the skies for its maiden test flight. The aim is that the apprentices who built in will get the chance to fly in it.

Project Slingshot is designed to give participants practical, hands-on experience in aviation manufacture and flight. Through the experience they also develop valuable practical skills in engineering, project management and teamwork. The team has learned about aviation manufacturing quality standards including traceability, record-keeping standards, visual inspections and technical approvals as well as the practical skills of aircraft manufacture.

The team is led by Luke Mullins as senior technical advisor, supported by  programme delivery manager James Wagstaff. Both are former technicians in the RAF. Project manager is Shakeela Cumberbatch.

The MTC was founded by the University of Birmingham, Loughborough University, the University of Nottingham and TWI Ltd, with industrial members including some of the UK’s major global manufacturers.

Part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, supported by Innovate UK, the MTC aims to provide a competitive environment to bridge the gap between university-based research and the development of innovative manufacturing solutions, in line with the Government’s manufacturing strategy.