June 5, 2001

Clockwise from left: Brodie, Crawford and Lam with “West Wing” in Ottawa. (David Claus photo)

UVic students fly high in national glider competition

A team of fourth-year mechanical engineering students from UVic won this year’s Free Flight Glider Competition organized by the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute.

Daryl Brodie, David Claus, Curran Crawford and Cecilia Lam were in Ottawa last month to compete against nine other teams from universities across Canada.

The goal of the competition was to design and build an unpowered, uncontrolled model glider that could carry the heaviest payload for the longest time.

With their unconventional glider design, which involved the use of a smaller wing in front of the main wing, the UVic group won two of the three flying sessions in the competition. Their runs included a best flight time of 47 seconds while carrying a payload of 400 grams. They also aced the technical report and oral presentations sections of the competition.

The students, who are all graduating this June (one of them, Crawford, is a medal-winner), started designing the airplane as an extra-curricular project last January. Using balsa wood for the wings and aluminum tubing for the fuselage, they built a one kilo, two metre-long glider named “West Wing” which flew without any on-board power or radio control.

The plane was launched like a kite, with one person running along the ground to help the plane gain altitude. “The first day was really windy, which helped,” says Lam. “I think we got the 47-second flight because we had a nice gust of wind just before we let go.” In total, the plane made 25 flights over the three-day event.

It also made 25 uncontrolled landings, and they often weren’t pretty. Most times, the team did a quick repair job. But on its final flight, the glider smashed into several pieces. “We had one of our famous crashes,” laughs Lam. “It’s just as well we’d finished, because we couldn’t have repaired it there.”

For their efforts, the four students won a $500 prize and a trophy.

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