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Keith Henry
Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA
(Phone: 757/864-6120)

Mary Sandy
Virginia Space Grant Consortium
(Phone: 757/865-0726)

Beth Bohn
Kansas State University (Manhattan and Salina)
(Phone: 913/532-6415)

RELEASE NO. 98-066

FIRST FLY-IT, BUILD-IT COMPETITION
Kansas Student Team Unveils Airplane Design

Oshkosh, Wis. -- A group of student engineers from Kansas have designed an aircraft that will enable a person to fly his or her personal airplane as easily as one would drive a car. A radio-controlled model of the design will be displayed July 31 through August 3 at the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA's) AirVenture 98 to be held in Oshkosh, Wis. The student team will also present a NASA Technical Forum for air show attendees.

The design, dubbed "Aladdin" by the students, is the product of students at four Kansas universities. The team won funding to develop the model through the National General Aviation Design Competition which is sponsored by NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration. The competition encourages university student teams to participate in a national effort to revitalize general aviation. The design was developed under a new award category -- Design-It, Build-It, Fly-It -- which is co-sponsored by the EAA. This category allows students to take a well-evolved design to a proof of concept phase.

The radio-controlled, jet-powered Aladdin model aircraft uses a new "de-coupled" flight control system. The result is an aircraft which offers flight control similar to driving an automobile. This makes flying easier, and significantly shortens the time and expense of training. The team's hope is that a plane that is easier to fly will encourage more people to become pilots.

For example, with a conventional flight control system, when the pilot advances the engine throttle, not only does the airspeed of the aircraft increase, but the airplane will climb. The climb is due to an increase in lift generated by the wings at the higher speed. With a de-coupled system, the pilot advances the throttle to increase speed just like the gas pedal in a car. The computer then makes the necessary adjustments to the engine and elevators to increase the airspeed, while maintaining the altitude of the aircraft.

Student teams submitted design concept proposals to the competition last fall. The Kansas Design Team received notice in December that they had won. The team is comprised of, a group of 30 students and 7 faculty from The University of Kansas (KU), Lawrence; Wichita State University (WSU), Wichita; Kansas State University (KSU), Manhattan; and Pittsburg State University (PSU), Pittsburg., received notice in December that they had won.

Building the Aladdin has been an intense process of design and redesign and has been cited by the students as a valuable educational experience. "Now I understand why there are delays in the aircraft industry," said How Meng Au, KU aerospace engineering graduate student and student team leader. "There were a lot of things we didn't know about until we reached that point in the design. I guess it was like the real world in that sense." The students gained valuable experience in working as team. "Working on a team, you've got to be open to lots of ideas," said Matt Stinemetze, WSU aerospace engineering graduate and WSU team captain. Stinemetze said he is confident in the work the team has accomplished.

The Aladdin radio-controlled model has a wingspan of 10 feet, a length of nine feet and a height of approximately three feet. It weighs approximately 70 pounds. The Aladdin sports an on-board video camera that links to a ground station, allowing the pilot to fly the Aladdin beyond visual range. For conventional radio-controlled aircraft, the pilot has to maintain constant visual contact with the aircraft in order to fly it.

Protecting their investment and a concern for safety persuaded the team to install install a parachute system, deployable by the radio-controlled pilot on the ground or by the model's computer if it detects a failure mode. The parachute is installed in the hatch where the windshield would be in an actual aircraft.

The team received a $10,000 development award from NASA and the FAA. The students will also received an award of $500 from the EAA at AirVenture 98. The aerospace departments at the four universities contributed funds as well. How Meng puts a conservative estimate for the project's total cost at $100,000. The team received $10,000 for project construction from the competition sponsors.

Each university was responsible for particular aspects of the Aladdin design. The KU team members were in charge of configuration design and analysis as well as overall team management. The parachute system, integrating components and model construction was led by WSU. The de-coupled flight control system and ground station were designed by KSU team members. PSU was responsible for designing the electrical system and power distribution.

The National General Aviation Design Competition is coordinated for NASA by the Virginia Space Grant Consortium. Copies of the guidelines for the 1998-99 Academic Year Competition can be requested by calling 757/865-0726.

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