A team of students from the University of Kansas School of Engineering brought home third place out of 34 teams in the SAE Aero Design West competition, held March 18 to 20 in Fort Worth, Texas.
Simply getting an aircraft to the competition, then ensuring it would land successfully, proved to be major engineering accomplishments for the KU team, known as Jayhawk Heavy Lift.
Team members had to pull a couple all-nighters to completely reconstruct their aircraft after it was destroyed in a crash just days before the start of the Aero Design West competition. During the competition, the KU team had a flight that lifted 36 pounds — unofficially, more than any other competing aircraft — but the flight was disqualified when landing gear snapped on touchdown. It was in the face of adversity that team leaders say the group really shined.
“I'm really proud of the efforts put forth by everyone on the team,” said John Pheatt, one of the pilots for the Jayhawk Heavy Lift team. “We’ve really overcome some hardships throughout the process. Saturday night we were up until the early morning hours making emergency repairs on the landing gear, doing the work in the outdoor hallway of the motel we were staying at.”
Jayhawk Heavy Lift managed two successful flights on Sunday after repairing the landing gear. The maximum weight successfully carried was 29.6 pounds in the team’s final run on Saturday. The group’s dedication, persistence and quick thinking are hallmarks of Jayhawk engineering.
“More than their raw performance, we can be very proud of their ‘can-do-never-say-die’ attitude, technical skill and a ton of work,” said Ron Barrett-Gonzalez, associate professor of aerospace engineering.
The team now shifts its focus to preparing the aircraft, known as Goed Genoeg II (which translates to “Good Enough” from Dutch), for the SAE Aero Design East competition, set for April 29 to May 1 in Marietta, Ga.
“We learned quite a bit about what we can do to better our design and presentation for the next competition,” Pheatt said. “I think the experience that the team has had at (Aero Design West) has motivated everyone to work even harder. I think with this knowledge and momentum, we will try to take first overall in Aero Design East.”