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Michael Braukus
Headquarters, Washington, DC
(Phone: 202/358-1979)

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

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

Les Dorr
FAA Headquarters, Washington, DC
(Phone: 202/267-3461)

RELEASE NO. 98-061


Oshkosh, Wis. NASA and the FAA today announced the winners of their 1998 National General Aviation Design Competition. The ceremony was held at AirVenture 98, the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Annual Convention and Fly-In at Oshkosh, Wis. Michael B. Mann, NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Aeronautics and Space Transportation Technology. Administrator Dan Goldin presented the awards.

Now in its fourth year, the competition calls for individuals or teams of undergraduate and graduate students from U.S. engineering schools to participate in a major national effort to rebuild the U.S. general aviation sector. For the purpose of the contest, general aviation aircraft are defined as single-engine, fixed-wing aircraft for 2 - 6 passengers. In addressing design challenges for a small aircraft transportation system, the competition seeks to raise student awareness of the importance of general aviation and to stimulate breakthroughs in technology and their application in the general aviation market.

National goals for revitalizing the industry offer excellent, open-ended design challenges with real world applications. University faculty advisors consistently cite the value of this kind of educational experience for their engineering students.

The first place award was presented to a 27-member undergraduate team from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. Virginia Tech’s winning design, dubbed "VicTor," is a single engine, four seat, high performance aircraft. The team’s broad goal was "a fun-to-fly, safe, affordable aircraft prepared to fly on the ‘highway in the sky’ of the twenty-first century." The sleek airframe design features an ergonomic cockpit with adjustable side control sticks and dual airbags, a choice between two high performance engines, and advanced technology instrument displays. The design looks to the next century by providing an upgrade option to allow autonomous flight if it becomes a reality. The VicTor incorporates state-of-the-art manufacturing techniques and advanced composite materials. The review panel of general aviation experts was particularly impressed with the team’s business plan and production data. The first place award provides a total of $3,000 to design team members and a $5,000 award to the university’s Department of Mechanical, Nuclear and Aerospace Engineering.

The team also won a separate $3,000 award for the best use of technology developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory. The Competition’s Air Force Technology award was presented to team representatives at the opening ceremonies of the United States Air and Trade Show in Vandalia, Ohio on July 18. The team incorporated Air Force data on pilot anatomy to create an innovative fully ergonomic cockpit. The students also used the United States Air Force Data Compendium handbook in their research. Widely used by aerospace engineers, the handbook contained equations, charts and data for predicting the aerodynamic stability and control characteristics of aerospace vehicles. Aircraft navigation for the VicTor design is largely dependent on the Global Positioning System, which was jointly developed by Air Force and other Defense Department organizations for military and civilian users.

Second place honors went to Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pa. for "Skipper 2," a high performance, two person single-engine, composite fuselage, tractor-prop light airplane. The low wing design features a high power engine and retractable landing gear. Other hallmarks are a user-friendly, multifunctional display cockpit, good stall characteristics, and structural simplification for ease of manufacturing. To enhance all-weather capability, the design also features a weeping wing de-icing system, somewhat unusual for an airplane of this size. Crashworthiness was also a major consideration. The team offered design variations for four-place, trainer and acrobatic versions of their aircraft. The design was developed by a 15-student team as part of a senior level design course. The second place award provides a prize of $2,000 to the student team.

Third place was awarded to a team of 13 undergraduate students from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va. For third place, the student team will share a $1,000 prize. The team was honored for developing a computer program that predicts drag, or resistance to air flow, in the design of new small passenger airplanes. One of the things that slows the development of new aircraft is the need for extensive flight testing of a prototype to determine the drag factors. The UVA team recognized that a computer program that could do much of the drag prediction in the design phase would save time and money in the development of new and modified airplanes, speeding effective new designs to the marketplace.

The competition is managed for NASA and the FAA by the Virginia Space Grant Consortium. Guidelines are now available for the fifth annual competition to be held during the 1998-99 academic year. New criteria encourage both individual and team submissions, and designs ranging from components and subsystems to complete aircraft designs. Guidelines can be requested at 757/865-0726 or

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