Weekly Feature



2018-06-13 / Lifestyles

Students to build airplane following competition win

by HOLLY N. LIPKA Reporter


Members from the winning team of this year’s Aviation Design Challenge stand in front of a smartboard that displays an airplane they modified on simulation software. From left are students Aidan Hurley, Christopher Kozak, Tatiana Forbes and Jacob Bell along with instructors Thomas Leach and Lisa Reidy. Members from the winning team of this year’s Aviation Design Challenge stand in front of a smartboard that displays an airplane they modified on simulation software. From left are students Aidan Hurley, Christopher Kozak, Tatiana Forbes and Jacob Bell along with instructors Thomas Leach and Lisa Reidy. Students enrolled in the aviation technology program at the Harkness Career and Technical Center in Cheektowaga have earned the opportunity to help build an airplane after placing first in a national aviation design competition.

The team of 11 students received the highest score out of 130 high school teams from 39 states during the sixth annual Aviation Design Challenge last month.

Four of the students, two from Amherst and two from Cheektowaga, will represent the team during an all-expenses paid trip to Glasair Aviation in Arlington, Washington, from June 17 to 30.

With guidance from factory experts and access to the required tools, the team will manufacture a Glasair Sportsman, a single-engine, high-wing utility plane, in just two weeks.

The four students going to Arlington include Jacob Bell, a senior at Maryvale High School; Tatiana Forbes, a junior at Amherst High School; Aidan Hurley, a senior at Williamsville North High School; and Christopher Kozak, a senior at John F. Kennedy High School. They will be joined by their instructor, Thomas Leach.

“I never knew something like this existed. Helping to build an airplane is an amazing opportunity. It’s going to be so cool and interactive,” said Forbes.

The Aviation Design Challenge was created in 2013 and is sponsored by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.

To compete, students used simulation software called X-Plane 10 to modify the aerodynamic design of a virtual airplane. The software scored the virtual aircraft, a Van’s RV-10, based on the payload, the length of the flight and the amount of fuel burned.

“There’s a bunch of factors that went into it,” said Hurley. “We extended the wing length because that gets you a higher lift and you don’t have to use as much engine power. We made the wings thinner so it would cut through the air faster. And we made the engine more powerful and the propeller more efficient.”

In total, Hurley said, the team made around 50 modifications to the aircraft’s original design.

“The original plane by itself scored something like 40 points, and our final design scored something like 340 points,” he said. “It was quite the change.”

The team, with guidance from instructor Leach, spent around a month modifying the airplane’s design with the software. Leach’s students have entered the annual competition five times since the program was established in 2012, but this was the first time a team won.

“I knew the airplane was great, but I didn’t know it was the best in the country. It was a complete surprise, and I couldn’t fathom what they accomplished,” said Leach. “The students and I are really looking forward to going out and building an airplane.”

Leach’s two-year aviation program focuses on all aspects of the aviation field to prepare those who are interested in pursuing careers within the field.

Students in the program have the opportunity to visit local airports, air traffic control facilities and engineering companies to see aviation positions in action and are given up to eight hours of flight time.

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