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Thread: EAA design contest?

  1. #1

    EAA design contest?

    There was a time when the EAA sponsored at least one design contest (which gave birth to the Bowers Fly Baby). Why not do the same thing today?For example, with the worldwide economic downturn there is a real need for modern, low cost designs. With developments in battery technology a simple electric homebuilt seems to be within reach. I am sure that there are many more possibilities.What kind of contest would you like to see and how might we go about creating such a contest?Cheers,Matthew
    Last edited by cluttonfred; 03-24-2012 at 11:07 AM.
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  2. #2
    Eric Witherspoon's Avatar
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    Having followed what the Sonex guys have done with respect to "electric homebuilt" possibilities, as well as seeing their presentation on the subject at Oshkosh 2010, it would appear they have a long, long lead in this race. They took their Waiex design and electrified it. The battery technology is anything but "low cost". In fact, the battery needed to power a 2-place for a theoretical 1/2 hour flight is currently well above what we're paying for current production 100-120hp engines. Then you've still got to buy the motor and power control hardware. As far as long, long lead in the race, the pacing item (besides the battery) is the power control hardware / software. The Sonex guys have spent gobs of hours and money on getting that stuff going.

    Of course, being an aircraft design and kit company, they have very specific ideas on how they would re-optimize the airframe for the electric power. Most of this would take something like the Waiex and make it more "glider-ish". Higher aspect ratio wing, maybe some tweaking to the fuselage shape to take advantage of the packaging possibilities of an electric motor and battery.

    So my impression is that unless it's "motors on an ultralight" kind of design, anything more "practical" like a 2-place, enclosed cockpit, 130-ish mph cruise kind of machine is being and will be designed/perfected by organizations / companies with lots of resources behind them. Of course, companies don't take on stuff like this unless they plan to sell a bunch of them. Or at least plan to sell the number of them required to recoup the cost. So a contest where the output is the IP out there "for free" for anyone else to build from - probably isn't going to be a very attractive proposition.

    Along the lines of "efficient airplanes" - one development I see as eventually generating some interesting products is the proposed "no medical up to 180hp" proposal. This essentially does away with the LSA speed limit. As such, I predict a future where VERY fast single-place designs come about with relatively low power (and "lower" cost) engines. Like 180-200mph cruise on a $7-8k VW-based engine, for instance. Or other smaller, lighter, more efficient engines giving similar cruise kinds of speeds at lower fuel burns, say 2-2.5 gph, albeit with higher buy-in costs. When we get there - in the realm of 90-100mpg at 180-200 mph, a personal airplane becomes a VERY attractive way to travel.
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  3. #3

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    As Eric mentioned, batteries are costly and limited in range and useful life before needing replacement.

    Since fuel price can only go up, we need new smaller engines for smaller single seat designs.
    But no suitable low cost small aircraft engines exist at this time (30-40hp). This has been a problem for more than 60 years.

    A good contest to promote small engine design ideas is needed in my view. With engine options, hundreds of airframe designs could emerge.
    Bill

  4. #4
    Well...I'm not expecting we'll see another EAA design contest. I went through the Sport Aviation archives leading up to the contest, and it looked like there was a lot of difficulty coming up with the rules. And I'm sure that some of the changes really caught in some folks' craws. For instance, the original rules said "any engine," but the final rules required a type-certified engine.

    Nowadays, it'd probably be worse. Back then, it was a competition between private individuals. Now, of course, it'd be a competition between kit companies...you can bet kit companies would lobby hard for rules that favor their products and exclude their competitors.

    Electric powered aircraft are an interesting concept, but don't forget the overriding goal of the first EAA design contest: A *practical* airplane. Unless the technology exists to allow a builder to use the plane for something more than a "gee whiz" machine, there's not going to be much interest. The Fly Baby won in 1962 because it was easy to build, had low construction costs, and gave performance equivalent to the typical GA aircraft of its day. It's hard to see an electric airplane accomplishing this....

    Ron Wanttaja

  5. #5
    Thanks, all, for your replies. I should clarify that the low-cost and electric options were two different suggestions for potential design contest themes and not intended to be taken together. Other themes might be for a 21st century bush plane, an affordable aerobatic mount or a cross-country machine for a family of five--since my wife and I have three kids ;-)I agree that the high cost of fuel would seem to encourage the development of small engines that would then create their own market, "if you build it, they will come." I am not so sure that an engine for the single-seat market makes much sense, historically most successful single-seat designs have almost always morphed into more sucessful, two-seat designs (Quickie to Q2, KR-1 to KR-2, Sonerai to Sonerai II, Midget Mustang to Mustang II, RV-3 to RV-4, etc.). Something like a 60 hp engine optimized for affordability and economy, cheaper to buy and operate than the Rotax 4-strokes, would certainly be a welcome addition to the market. But since engines are almost exclusively a commercial proposition, not amateur designed or built, I am not so sure it makes since as a contest. And if I were the manufacturer of such an engine, the first thing I would do is to sponsor a design contest and races and competitions for new and existing designs to draw attention to my engine.I know it's a common refrain, but am I wrong in thinking that we need more offerings at the low end of the homebuilt price spectrum, both plans and kits, to attract new members to our community and to provide affordable options in tough economic times? Of course, the same thing can be said for the factory-built market both LSA and standard airplanes. Where is the DH Moth, the Aeronca C-3 or the Piper J-3 for the 21st century?
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    Voici ce que j'ai fait...vous pouvez en faire autant!
    "This is what I have done...you can do the same!"
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  6. #6

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    Of course, Fred was (is) a single seat design and so is Flybaby. Yes, it is true that commercial airplane factories focus on profit and this means they have no interest in lower cost single seat. I found that no single seat SLSA have been offered in these 8 years since Light Sport went into effect. The light sport rule was supposed to enhance affordable options but the focus on two-seat has driven the engine cost higher than would be the case if the focus was on single seat size engines.
    Light single seat is left with no good engine options now, from the airplane engine companies, these engine options have to be nurtured from the experimental group.
    For a contest, liability is always a concern. One seat have less liability, a passenger warning is not required obviously, this is an advantage.

  7. #7

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    Matt,

    I see a lot of potential in your design contest idea being held as an academic exercise at the university and even at the high school level. The high school level could have some serious ties to the STEM program. At the university level there is the potential for bright young engineers to shine which can make the difference when getting that all important first job.

    Cheers,
    Kurt

  8. #8

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    I like to see them bring back some of the competitive flying events, like the L-B-F speed/efficiency race. See who can go the fastest & slowest, takeoff & land in the shortest distance, most payload, etc. That pushes aircraft design as much as anything. Plus the pilot can come up with his own strategy for placing as high as possible.
    Last edited by martymayes; 03-26-2012 at 07:45 PM.

  9. #9
    steveinindy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by martymayes View Post
    I like to see them bring back some of the competitive flying events, like the L-B-F speed/efficiency race. See who can go the fastest & slowest, takeoff & land in the shortest distance, most payload, etc. That pushes aircraft design as much as anything. Plus the pilot can come up with his own strategy for placing as high as possible.
    I'm conflicted on whether to support this idea or not.
    Unfortunately in science what you believe is irrelevant.

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  10. #10

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    For your single seat, low cost LSA needs:

    http://www.airdromeaeroplanes.com/ai...orderform.html

    On flying competitions, I don't see the problems with ressurecting "land on the dot" or short field challenges of yore. The rules were straight forward and the emphasis was on safety. As planes got heavier and faster, they fell out of favor - it's the realm of Champs and Cubs.

    I'm not too keen on max load competitions, as it sounds an awful lot like testing to failure. Slow flight competitions are met with short field challenges. Races for time and efficiency are actually really boring to watch - three times back and forth on a heading/back heading.
    The opinions and statements of this poster are largely based on facts and portray a possible version of the actual events.

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