An uplifting experiment

Vadim Lavrusik

Students walking to and from the University Recreation Center on Mondays might have been confused after seeing a World War I bomber soar through the sky.

But students shouldn’t be alarmed ” the plane is only a remote-controlled model.

The University’s future astronauts and spacecraft designers meet every Monday for the new RC Plane Club, where they often fly their battery-powered remote control plane outside the Recreation Center.

“The club was created to let students experience designing and flying a plane firsthand,” said Brian Nackerud, aerospace engineering junior.

Nackerud, who helped spark the club’s creation, also helps guide club members in the techniques of flying and designing the aircraft.

The club, which meets in Akerman Hall, is a subgroup of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, a national society of aerospace engineers, which has a University chapter.

The 2-foot Styrofoam plane runs on a small battery-powered motor.

“Crashes happen often, but the planes are easily fixed with a little glue,” Nackerud said.

The idea for the creation of the club came from aerospace engineering professor Jeffrey Hammer, who teaches a senior design course in which students design and build remote control planes.

Students taking the senior design course last semester were having trouble finishing the project of designing and building planes, Hammer said.

“This club will help students prepare for the class,” Hammer said.

Each spring, students in Hammer’s class design a bigger remote control model in which an engine is powered by gas.

The students in late spring compete in the Heavy Lift Competition in Austin, Texas. The plane designed to carry the most weight and is able to take off wins the competition.

Members of the club learn how to fly the remote control plane through a simulation run, in which the main remote control is linked to a trainee control. The main control can overpower the trainee’s if “anything goes wrong,” Nackerud said, while checking the controls on his remote.

“I really couldn’t control the plane,” aerospace engineering sophomore Rizwan Qureshi said, after his first test run in which Nackerud had to take over control numerous times.

“A lot of us don’t have actual experience with aircraft, but just book knowledge,” said Jeremy Smith, an aerospace engineering senior who wants to be an astronaut.

The club was established last semester, when students learned to fly the planes. This semester the club plans to focus its efforts on learning the design of the planes.

Nackerud said the club is open to all University students, not just aerospace engineering majors.

“It’s just a lot of fun to fly these things,” Nackerud said during a flight simulation that ended with a crash that left the plane in two pieces.