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About Us

The Teen Aircraft Factory of Manasota (TAFM) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Sarasota / Bradenton, Florida.  We are interested in mentoring the next generation of pilots, mechanics and aviation professionals. This hands-on program pairs pilots and aviation enthusiasts with students to build light sport airplanes.  Our students, aged 14-18, are from area schools and diverse backgrounds. 

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Teen Aircraft Factory of Manasota, Young Eagles

Each Saturday, ten to fifteen students, under the guidance of their volunteer aviation mentors come together to build a two-seat, light sport airplane over 24-36 months. Through this program, they have an opportunity to develop their Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) interest and skills including reading engineering drawings, using metal work tools, building production assemblies, and testing finalized components while staying organized and keeping documentation.     

The teens have numerous opportunities to fly in light airplanes, discuss careers with professional pilots and TAFM alumni, and attend pilot ground school.  Our volunteer mentors, with over 150 combined years of aviation experience, not only ensure the students learn aircraft mechanics, maintenance and piloting skills BUT perhaps more importantly, develop self-confidence, work discipline, commitment, team work, and leadership.  While an airplane is built and flown, our mission is to build the next generation of aviation leaders—one airplane at a time.  We are proud that 100% of our teen alumni have gone on to college or the military.

In addition, we provide college scholarships for outstanding students and also send one student per year to aviation summer camp at the EAA Air Academy Lodge in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Our Volunteers

Our volunteers are passionate about flying, building aircraft, and cultivating young adults into responsible, well-rounded individuals. The TAFM consists of volunteer mentors with over 150 combined years of aviation experience (military and civilian, commercial and sports aviation).  Their goal is to ensure that the students learn the necessary skills to assemble their aircraft and, perhaps more importantly, develop self-confidence, work discipline, commitment, teamwork, and leadership.  

Our Volunteers
Ric Romanoff, Teen Aircraft Factory of Manasota, EAA

Ric is a pilot and lifelong flight enthusiast, member of the EAA, and TAFM Team Leader who is actively involved in student relations and participation.  Ric has owned and operated several companies in Sarasota and has impressive civic experience including Chairman of Sarasota Junior Achievement program, Sarasota Police Department civilian volunteer, and Sailing Instructor for Sarasota Red Cross.  His hobbies include building and flying airplanes, boating and diving.

Ric Romanoff

Marti Sobel, , Teen Aircraft Factory of Manasota, EAA

Martin, a founding member of TAFM, started flying in 1961 with the Air Force flying club.  He became an Aviation Maintenance Technician and later served 34 years as a Commercial Pilot for TWA flying every type of aircraft domestically and internationally.  He also served as a flight instructor to Net Jets Europe pilots.   Martin is a long-time member of EAA and has been building light aircrafts since 1995.  Martin also kindly donates his hangar space, and much of the equipment, for the TAFM teens to work each Saturday.

Martin Sobel

Brad Smith, Teen Aircraft Factory of Manasota, EAA

Brad is a retired U.S. Navy Commander pilot who served in the Vietnam war and is a Silver Star recipient.  From 1981 until his retirement from the military he served as the Aircraft Maintenance Officer and Weapons System  Test Pilot at the Pacific Missile Test Center in California.  He has participated in the build of several aircrafts including a Tiger Moth and Van's RVs.  Brad leads the TAFM team in kit assembly and quality assurance.

Brad Smith

Jim Faix, , Teen Aircraft Factory of Manasota, EAA

Jim is a pilot, EAA Chapter 180 Board Member and one of the mentors who led the TAFM teens on completion of the club's second RV-12.  He is actively involved in the build of TAFM's third RV-12 airplane that is currently underway.  Jim has worked on several aircrafts, including a complete restoration of his 1956 Cessna 172 Skyhawk.  When not flying or building/restoring airplanes, Jim is the owner of Polaris Property Management with over 27 years experience in the association management industry.

Jim Faix

Ute Kegel.png

Ute joined TAFM as a volunteer for the Sarasota Police Department and fell in love with the program immediately. What could be more exciting than building an airplane? Originally from Germany, Ute has worked as a technical and medical translator of manuals, documentation, marketing and training materials for 30 years. She has a lifelong passion for all things technical, and her profession has given her an extensive background in safety, best practices, technical understanding, and attention to detail — and she enjoys passing on this knowledge to our students.

Ute Kegel

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