A plane design partly from the University of Kansas and partly from Down Under took the top prize in an international design competition and will be on display next week at a national aerospace conference.
The 2016 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Undergraduate Team Aircraft Design Competition called for aerobatic light sport aircraft meeting certain criteria. A combined team of aerospace engineering students from KU and Australia’s Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology answered with its design for the Screamin’ Dingo.
The small plane comes in one- or two-seater models, can be built by the buyer or the manufacturer, and features detachable wings so the plane can be put on a trailer and driven to the runway if needed.
Team leader Riley Sprunger, of Inman, now a first-year aerospace engineering master’s student at KU, said the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics invited the team to present its design to industry professionals at the Institute’s national SciTech Forum Jan. 9-13 in Grapevine, Texas.
He’s “a little nervous about it,” though the team isn’t exactly pressured to sell its design, Sprunger said. He’s never heard of a college aerospace design actually being manufactured, though the Screamin’ Dingo is designed to fly if it were built as specified.
The team did calculations to verify that, as well as how much it would cost to produce such a plane: $95,000.
Part of their homework also involved talking to numerous aerobatic pilots to learn what they liked and what features would help the plane be marketable.
“We wanted it to be something that you wouldn’t necessarily have to go out and purchase. You can build this aircraft at home if you want to, or you can have the manufacturer build it and buy it at a premium,” Sprunger said.
The detachable wings are another unusual feature of the Screamin’ Dingo.
“We’ve seen it done before, but with an aircraft with this kind of ability, it is unique,” Sprunger said.
The team worked on the design together throughout the spring 2016 semester, communicating with their Australian teammates via Skype and submitting the design specifications and renderings electronically. They found out they’d won later in the year.
Sprunger’s fellow KU teammates, all KU undergrads at the time, were Taylor George, of Scott City; Jefferson Vlasnik, of Omaha, Neb.; and Joel Eppler, of Paola.
Sprunger said the process itself was a learning experience.
“It definitely opened my eyes into just how much work goes into designing a plane, and it also showed me how many different fields you have to touch on,” he said. “We didn’t know a whole lot about engine selection, marketing or doing a financial plan for the aircraft … it gives us a lot more depth into things that are beyond the engineering aspect.”
The combined team was created with the help of KU aerospace engineering professor Ron Barrett-Gonzalez, a longtime friend of Cees Bil, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology faculty member who advised the Australian team.
“In this electronicized age, collaborating around the world is not prohibitively difficult,” Barrett-Gonzalez said, in a news release. “It’s a great introduction to how their working lives will be — there’s no such thing as a purely domestic airplane company anymore. They’re all at least partly international."