The Right Stuff

Aerospace (eventually) engineers. Top-Gun-style volunteer pilots. Crack mechanics. All gathered today at the Cuba, MO international airport to test AAVG’s 2013 aircraft.
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As with most student competitions design rules change each year, and for “Lucky ’13” the SAE aero folks really dropped a big one on the participants. In years past four-engine monsters with 20-foot wingspans were common, adding special urgency on the ground when something went, uh, a little awry. Since then planes have gotten smaller, lighter, smarter and less lethal when performing a one-point landing*.
Each 2013 aircraft must:
Have a two-member R/C crew, one of which is the bombardier cargo specialist.
Weigh no more than 8 pounds
Carry a fifteen-pound payload
Send live, in-flight video and telemetry data to the ground for analysis
Drop a three-pound humanitarian cargo onto a designated spot.
Today’s flight plan called for testing. testing, and more testing, while waiting for crosswinds to ease, but the last pre-flight test revealed a problem. A control servo, SkunkSUN_6548.jpgrumored to have been salvaged** from a years-ago test crash started acting up, and in a remarkable example of good judgement the team decided to postpone the flight pending repairs, probably until later this week.
The “waiting for lift-off” did leave some under-utilized flight crew with time on their hands. Two ambitious S&T students (right) took the opportunity to calculate the flight characteristics of a desiccated, runway-kill skunk that vaguely resembled a frisbee, but opted not to conduct actual flight ops. We’re guessing the wind was from the wrong direction.
The “humanitarian” cargo?. The two chihuahuas (top photo, bottom left) are not the air-drop cargo. Difficulties in finding a PETA-approved pet parachute*** and getting the dogs to precisely three pounds just couldn’t be overcome in time for competition.
*There’s a best-crash award at SAE Aero events. Best seen in person, but we’ll let slip that there’s usually plenty of competition for that trophy!
** This is why the FAA frowns on buying/selling salvage parts for commercial aircraft. Dirt track racers and monster trucks don’t worry too much about that concept.
*** Lighten up, PETA, we’re KIDDING!!!