One Side Of The Room, Nearly 100 Years Of Professional Aeronautical Experience……….

On the other? Four undergrad students and the 9½ lb aircraft they designed, financed, built and tested in less than a year.

The task? Convince four Lockheed-Martin engineers that plane meets the technical specs set forth by SAE Aero officials, can carry out complex aerial missions, displays outside-the-box thinking, and has the same systematic thought process behind it as the company’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

AAVG14SUN_6918And they have just 10 minutes in which to do so. Chief engineer Emily Dierkes did it in 8 minutes, 30 seconds. She handled the presentation chores quite well, leaving judges only with minor questions about tail-boom construction, payload installation and propeller pitch.

Early today design teams and their projects from around the world flooded a convention hall for nerve-racking rounds of technical inspections. Each aircraft was picked, prodded, measured, looked at, and tested in ways that would embarrass a TSA agent at Laguardia Airport. S&T’s Plan/Plane B, now emblazoned with tail #217, was given the fine-toothed-comb treatment for nearly an hour. Event officials determined that #217 exceeded allowable length until one of the Miners told them the proper way to use a tape measure. Seemingly endless hours of examining aircraft while “discussing” micro details can make even the best of us overlook something.

The real fun begins tomorrow when flight operations commence but this is a design event first, a flying event second. Excellent design and presentation scores can outweigh a mediocre flight tally. All the interest in which team has the prettiest plane/flight/crash aside, flight ops simply prove the design works.

And that’s why Missouri S&T is here.