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July 7, 2008

Beth Dickey
Headquarters, Washington

Kathy Barnstorff
Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.

College Students Design Future Aircraft in NASA Competition

HAMPTON, Va. - Sixty-one students from 14 colleges and universities around the globe have imagined what the next generation of airliners and cargo planes may look like.

Fourteen teams and two individual students submitted their designs in the annual competition sponsored by NASA's Fundamental Aeronautics Program, part of the agency's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate.

The highest scoring graduate team was from Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Undergraduate team honors went to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.

The contest asked students to create a future subsonic transport aircraft that could carry up to 50,000 pounds, operate on runways between 1,500 and 3,000 feet long, and cruise at speeds between 595 and 625 mph - about the average speed of airliners today. The competition also stressed that concept planes should use alternative fuels and be quieter and more environmentally friendly than today's commercial fleet.

"The nation's air transportation system is under tremendous pressure to increase performance and capacity without causing additional damage to the environment," said Juan Alonso, director of the Fundamental Aeronautics Program. "Through competitions such as this, we are nurturing a new generation of engineers who can deliver the solutions we so desperately need."

The judges graded the designs on criteria including creativity and imagination, feasibility and cost analysis, and comprehensive discussion of design concept.

"The invention, imagination and engineering exhibited in these college proposals was extraordinary, and in parts superior to the concepts prevalent in the current professional literature. These entries bode well for the future of civilian aeronautics," said Dennis Bushnell, chief scientist at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. Bushnell was one of several NASA experts who judged the competition.

As part of the competition, six U.S. students received a 10-week paid summer internship at one of four NASA research centers around the country. Non-U.S. student winners received an engraved trophy and certificate.

Sponsors are already planning next year's competition, which will be announced by the end of this summer.

A complete list of winners of the college contest can be found at:


For more information about NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, visit:


For more information about NASA and agency programs, visit:


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