RAF cadets flying high as they build their own plane
After almost two years of hard graft, RAF cadets from across Northern Ireland are close to completing their construction of a Sting S4 aircraft.
Project 'Centennial Wings' began in July 2016 to mark 100 years of Boeing, which co-funded the cadets' work along with aviation organisation the Air League.
The completion of the two-seater aircraft, which will be capable of a maximum speed of 177mph, will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the formation of the RAF in 1918.
Project officer Aaron Coulter said there is growing excitement as the aircraft progresses towards its test flight. He said: "The project team is made up of between 10 and 15 cadets who come from all over Northern Ireland and have been building this aircraft at the Maze Prison site every weekend for the past two years.
"We fitted the wings this weekend which is a fairly big milestone for us and everything went according to plan, which was fantastic. We hope to start the engine within the next four to six weeks here at Newtownards and then we will send for a permit to test fly it.
"It will complete five hours of test flying before being granted a permit to fly ahead of us taking part in the Fairford for the Royal and National Tattoo from July 13-16.
"Everything has been running according to schedule and we expect it will be completed on time, which will be quite an achievement. The project staff have been working on this with the cadets every weekend and it has been very enjoyable.
"The progress we have seen this weekend particularly has been incredible and there is a real sense of accomplishment felt by the cadets.
"All the staff have flown aircraft for years because we are all pilots, but the cadets themselves are pretty excited to be able to say they have built an aircraft from scratch, installed an engine, and to get the flight in will be the ultimate reward for them.
"As the project end is most definitely in sight, I would like to thank the Ulster Aviation Society for their hospitality over this past 18 months."