OXFORD – Josh Wardwell is building his future in the driveway of his School House Road home.

“He has a passion for aviation,” said his mother, Stephanie, as she watched her 14-year-old son looking over the partially built RagWing plane that he someday hopes to fly out of the Oxford County Regional Airport.

The plane, which was designed by Roger Mann of South Carolina, was purchased for Josh by his grandfather about a year ago from an estate in Greenwood, but it came with no plans.

With $75 he earned from mowing neighbors’ lawns and other chores, Josh said he tracked down the plans from the designer and set out to build the plane that will eventually fly with an adapted snowmobile engine.

The task was all-consuming, said his mother, who recalled Josh often sitting in the cockpit of the plane in the driveway pretending he was in the air.

“We couldn’t get him out of there. He ate lunch in there a few times,” said Stephanie, as she remembered family cookouts where Josh would be spotted hunched in the cockpit of his plane eating a hamburger.

He needs to raise $3,000 to complete everything, including the “skin” of the plane and the instrument panel. The engine cost is additional. Meanwhile he has worked on the plane constructing the door and hooking up the pedals.

He will get his pilot’s license before he flies it, although it is not mandated. The plane is considered an experimental glider and therefore does not need a licensed pilot to operate it, he said.

A student at Oxford Hills Middle School in Paris, Josh said he caught the flying bug at the age of 3, when he flew with a friend’s father in a Cessna 150 from the Oxford County Regional Airport.

About a year ago he discovered the Civil Air Patrol while browsing on the Internet. When he went into his first meeting in Auburn, his hair hanging down to his shoulders, he was hooked.

“When he walked into the squadron, underneath all that hair you could see a very intelligent boy,” Civil Air Patrol 1st Lt. Mary Story-King said.

The next week he showed up with his hair cut.

“He’s the leader. He went right from airman up to airman third class and cadet commander,” Story-King said of the 77th Composite Squadron, which meets in Auburn once a week. “He took over.”

Story-King described the youngster as shy and a little uncertain when he first arrived. “He’s matured now. I think he’s very motivated.”

Josh, who must keep a certain grade point average at school along with other criteria to stay involved, flies anytime he gets a chance out of the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport.

“He’s explained to Capt. (Warren) King he wants to fly a jet,” Story-King said.

The Civil Air Patrol, which Story-King said owns the largest fleet of planes in the world, was started during World War II by volunteers who felt the need to patrol the shorelines. “We’re all volunteers. We invest in American youth,” Story-King said.

The students work in aerospace ventures and in areas such as learning search-and-rescue tactics.

Josh’s future with the Civil Air Patrol may be cadet officer school, Story-King said.

Josh’s enthusiasm lights up his face when he talks about his plans to enclose the cockpit and paint the plane white with a red lightning bolt going down the sides. Under each wing he plans on writing the name Joe Cole, the name of his grandfather’s friend, who originally owned the plane.

His hero is Patty Wagstaff, a six-time member of the U.S. Aerobatic Team and the first woman to win the title of U.S. Aerobatic champion. He met her at an air show in Brunswick.

And like Wagstaff, Josh says he has adventure in him when it comes to flying.

“I want to join the Air Force. But I want to be a stunt pilot too,” Josh said.


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