The 2007 Aggie Micro Aeronautics Team, AMAT, had a successful year in building an airplane and flying at the SAE Aero West Design competition. AMAT’s aircraft, the Aggie Micro Flyer III (AMF III), was able to officially carry a 19.5 pound load to capture 8th place in the regular class competition.
Although the AMF III was completed and successfully flew at competition, there were many problems and complications that hindered the performance of the aircraft. One of the most outstanding problems was the gap difference between the two elements of the airfoil. Because of its unique design, the super selig airfoil contains two selig airfoil elements in order to increase lift; however, due to this design, the gap in between the two elements must be equal on each side of the wings to create equal lift.
AMAT learned this lesson the hard way when the AMF III crashed during a test flight a day before the SAE Aero West Design competition. The reason was due to the fact that the separation between the two elements on the left side of the wing was smaller than the separation between the two elements on the right side of the wing. This caused the left side to produce a larger lift than the right side to create a rolling moment which was unable to be countered by rudder deflection. The crash left the AMF III in poor condition with its tail boom section completely detached from the fuselage, its horizontal tail detached from the tail boom, and the fuselage cracked at the landing gear area.
Despite these setbacks, AMAT was able to repair, with a lot of carbon fiber and epoxy, the AMF III within a night to fly the next day in the SAE Aero West competition. The gaps between the wings were fixed, the tail boom section was wrapped with carbon fiber like a cast with carbon fiber spars fixed in place, allowed for larger rudder deflections, and patched up areas with cracks with more carbon fiber as well.
The members of AMAT worked diligently to design, build, and create a fully functional radio controlled plane optimized for carrying large loads. Even though there was only one returning member from the previous year on the team, new AMAT members quickly learned how to deal with composite materials, structural design, and aerodynamic effects on the airplane. AMAT also learned to work as a group and to communicate ideas in order to resolve problems which affected the plane.
As a group, AMAT did very well to confront mistakes and to fix them before the deadline for the competition. Dedicated work and interest in building an aircraft helped this team to get through setbacks to finally be rewarded with the awesome sight of their plane, made from scratch, to take off and fly.
Nghiem Ron Vo
Yong Yin Chuah
Jean-Jacques Chattot, PhD