What began as an experiment has turned into a profitable venture for four former gang members who were introduced to aviation through the Wathen Foundation and Polyfiber. Two years ago, as the result of a Federal Youth Opportunity Grant, administered by the Wathen Foundation, the four were part of an original group of six who began re-covering the control surfaces of a DC-3.
Today, one of the students is in college while four others from the original group have formed an LLC at Flabob Airport called West Side Aviation. The company is set up to do re-covering and complete restoration on aircraft. They have already re-covered a Husky, Funk and J-3 and are currently doing a total refurbishment of a Waco Cabin. The work they are doing provides them with enough money to live on and they’re saving for advanced education.
All four are finishing high school and planning to pursue A&P ratings through a local A&P school. The fifth member expects to return to West Side Aviation when he completes his college education.
Jon Goldenbaum, of Consolidated Aircraft Coverings (Polyfiber), is providing direction for the four students and the Wathen Foundation is continuing to support their efforts. The foundation expects to offer more entry level positions for this program in the near future.
“It has achieved a level of success that goes way beyond what we originally expected,” said Thomas Wathen. “It’s truly exciting to see young people so focused on an activity they are clearly turning into a career. These are the kind of skills we need in aviation.”
Goldenbaum echoed his sentiments.
“These young men take a lot of pride in their achievement,” he said. “Just realizing that they can turn their work into a productive career has motivated them to excel at what they do. They work hard at it, and they deserve credit for developing a good product.”
For more information, call 951-684-4280.