Students engineer a sleeker, more reliable plane for competition


Members of UA's Aero Design Team are, standing, from left, Mark Lazor (pilot/adviser), Ryan Bieder, Jeremy Hein, Brandon Hein, Evan Henrich, Janelle Archer, Sergey Vorontsov, Elizabeth Hammell, Nataniel Noussias and Michael Hearne. In the front row, from left, are Eric Bohanan, Devin Cross, Ian Maatz, Josh Wilson and Stanley Kaguima.

Ian Maatz and Devin Cross, co-captains of UA's Aero Design Team, are on a 35-hour cross-country trip to Van Nuys, Calif., to compete in the annual SAE Aero Design West competition sponsored by Lockheed Martin. The pair has in tow "Thrustmaster," a light weight, high-payload-carrying remote control airplane designed and built by engineering students. Their teammates will meet them on Friday to compete against 75 teams in both the SAE Aero Design Regular and Micro Class competitions. 

Early in the planning stages for the Regular Class competition, Maatz and Cross decided that the team needed to commit to a tighter design and build schedule to allow for test flights.

Thrustmaster takes to the air in this test flight.

"Historically, the plane's first flight of the year has been at competition," says Maatz. "This year we've already had three test flights, and each time, we've uncovered small problems that we've fixed."

The team will be scored on Thrustmaster's reliability, weight and payload, as well as a technical report and presentation to Lockheed Martin employees. 

After experiencing wing flutter and a crash at last year's competition, the team decided to use a longer, 12.5 foot wing and add a secondary spar, which is a wooden support, to strengthen the wing. The plane also has a new, sleeker unibody design that eliminates the need to bolt joints together.

Like the Regular Class plane, the Micro Class Plane is scored on reliability, but also its payload fraction (payload divided by total weight).

"This year’s team has had the most exciting and unique ideas to improve the design of the plane," says Cross of the group working on the Micro Class plane.

The students, who are all newer to the Aero Design Team, have constructed a Micro Class plane that weighs approximately 7 ounces and is controlled solely by the tail of the plane.

See also: College of Engineering student design teams.

Media contacts: Sarah Steidl, 330-471-8142 or , or Denise Henry, 330-972-6477 or