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Polish Students in U.S. Aircraft Design Contest
June 14, 2010   
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Members of the Aviation Club of the Wrocław University of Technology have designed and built a model aircraft that won fourth prize in this year’s SAE Aero Design West international collegiate competition held at Van Nuys Airport near Los Angeles, California in March.

This prestigious competition, organized by the American Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and sponsored by airplane builder Lockheed Martin, attracted 29 entrants from all over the world. The aim of the competition is to design a remote-controlled airplane model to carry the highest payload possible. Teams must not only demonstrate their design and logistic abilities but also give a report and oral presentation of the merits of their design.

The competition is split into two heats: Aero Design East and West. This year Poland entered two teams into the Aero Design West competition. One was the Jet Stream Team from the Aviation Club of the Wrocław University of Technology, and the other was made up of members of the Young Engineers’ Circle of the Air Force Academy in Dęblin. Both teams made it into the top 10. Jet Stream Team finished fourth, and the Dęblin team took eighth place.

Tougher than the rest

The competition lasts three days. Teams must orally present their designs and then fly their planes twice, once with a payload. The jury poses a number of restrictions to make the competition more difficult. These included a 508 cm limit on the total sum of the plane’s length, height and wingspan and a maximum fully-loaded weight of 24.95 kg. The interior needed to be rectangular and 25.5 x 12.5 x 12.5 cm in size. Ease of assembly and disassembly was also a requirement. The students were not allowed to use glass, carbon or aramid fibers in the models’ construction or gyroscopes in the transmission, except where the ratio was 1:1. Every model had to have an O.S.61FX type engine with an E-4010 muffler.

Jet Stream Team’s model aircraft was called “Samarama.” It lifted a load of 10 kg, or 182 percent of its own weight. It had a 10 cc engine, a wingspan of 240 cm, length of 221 cm, and was 45 cm high.

“Our model was designed using the latest software,” says Przemysław Tomków, a Jet Stream Team member, who is an aeronautical engineering graduate and a glider pilot. “We designed a unique system for load attachment to facilitate adjustment of the center of gravity. Thanks to this the plane flies brilliantly.”

Jet Stream Team is made up of 10 members, but only seven traveled to California. In addition to Tomków, those that went included Michał Skalny, the team leader and Head of Student Affairs at the university; second-year management student and amateur pilot Dawid Kostrzewa; fourth-year mechanics and machine construction student and licensed pilot Tomasz Prokop; fourth-year automation and robotics student and trainee glider pilot Artur Zolich; mechanical and power engineering student Krzysztof Marczewski; and aviation engineering student Michał Zakolski.

This was the second time that the Wrocław University of Technology entered a team into the SAE Aero Design West competition and fully covered the zl.20,000 cost this year. Last year the university’s team came in 17th, with its Czopun plane. Skalny says the team will definitely enter the competition again next year. The Dęblin team has plans to do the same.

Flying high

The first time a Polish team entered the Aero Design competition was in 1991. In subsequent years Polish student teams consistently did better, coming in second in 1997 and 1998, and winning the competition in 1999, 2000 and 2001.

In 2008, a team of aerospace engineering students from the Warsaw University of Technology won third prize in the Aero Design West competition in Fort Worth, Texas.

Julia Pawłowska
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