The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) student organization performed well at the Design/Build/Fly competition in Wichita, KS over the weekend of April 13-15, 2012. The purpose of the competition is to give undergraduate students hands on experience with designing an aircraft. The competition consists of three different “missions”.

Mission 1, where speed is tested by flying as many laps as possible within a specified period of time (4 minutes), was completed successfully. According to Bryan Whittington, a student in the Industrial and Mechanical Engineering Department at UIC and AIAA Build Project Manager, “the plane was making tight turns and managed to complete six full laps”.

Mission 2, where payload endurance is tested while fully loaded, was again completed successfully, despite having to overcome approximate 23 mph wind gusts. According to Whittington, “the plane handled it like a champ, took off, made three laps, and landed with no problems.” Mission 2 is scored by weight (the lighter the better) and the UIC team’s plane was one of the lightest to complete the mission in the high winds.

Unfortunately, having prepared for Mission 3, which measures the time it takes to climb to 100 meters with a 2 liter payload, the students never had the opportunity to fly the mission. An hour before the group was scheduled for their Mission 3 routine, event organizers had to cancel flights due to the high winds. Tornados touched down that night, severely damaging areas around the air field and making it inaccessible. So, the entire third day of flights was cancelled.

Only a few teams out of 68 were able to finish Mission 3. According to Whittington, “many teams failed tech inspection or crashed in Missions 1 or 2”. Ultimately, the competition was scored based on the first two missions only. The UIC team placed 8th out of 68 teams.

The UIC AIAA team was so confident in their ability to finish Mission 3, that they made plans to complete it on their own. They completed their own Mission three in 1 minute and 58 seconds.

The team is especially thankful to their professional pilot Ivan, who took a few days off work, helped with preparations, and was “just an awesome pilot”.






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Raymond Matthes

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