The first student-built airplane, a Piper Cub, took to the skies on Saturday, November 19, 2005 at the Buchanan Field Airport in Concord. The project began in March 2003 after Marshall Freeman, aviation enthusiast and Diablo resident, approached Athenian with a novel idea. He would fund and provide instruction to Athenian students to give them the rare learning experience of building something complex and of undoubted significance — their own airplane. Marsh has led the Airplane Project with assistance from adult technical experts and close support from Bruce Hamren, an Upper School science teacher at Athenian.
Eighty-eight Middle and Upper School students contributed to building the two-seat Piper Cub-style airplane. Students worked after school in what is now called "The Maker's Studio" to construct the 22-foot-long plane, which has a 36-foot wingspan. They did wood and metal working, put in the controls and even disassembled the used 135-horsepower engine before it was professionally rebuilt. The plane holds two 12-gallon gas tanks and flies at approximately 100 mph. The plane passed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspection, completing 25 more solo hours of flight before it could carry passengers.
The second airplane, The Christen Eagle 2, took 5 years to build and was sold in the spring of 2012.