Bits and Pieces
The Incredible Épervier Project
Meet the 12 students. Several of them are specializing in aeronautics, and all have already experienced work in technical group projects.
Photo: Jean-Pierre Bonin
Imagine a group of undergraduate university students in a rigorous, applied science program, attempting a complex project of this nature - one that requires completion within two years for “end-of-program” credits. Can you fathom the research required, the sponsorship demands, the resolution of group dynamic conflicts that must have arisen, and the euphoria of completion and achievement of all expectations?
In early 2006, 12 mechanical engineering students decided to build an aeroplane. Nothing too complicated, right? It was an “end-of-program” project for the Mechanical Engineering bachelors degree at the Université de Sherbrooke in Quebec. This project is designated as a hands-on practicum outside (and in addition to) the structured four-and-a-half year study program. Read more
How to set the parameters for the project? To start with, the group met with industry spokespersons. What aircraft demand would dictate the project’s parameters? What niche is available, and what construction methods, materials, flight profiles, manufacturing facilities, and what other resource requirements would be necessary?
Discussions, deliberations, evaluations followed and finally the decision was made, to design and build a single-place aircraft, of composite construction, simple and fast, aerobatic, and of a flexible design such that simple and quick changes could modify the flight profile into additional or other flight roles.
Meet the ‘Épervier’ or ‘Sparrowhawk’; an aerobat that can fly cheaply on lead-free fuel and one that can be kitted with most components and assembly requirements within the capability of an amateur builder.
In May of 2007, the students presented their concept at the Aerosalon exhibit at St-Hubert airport and made a number of contacts with active aerospace firms and pilots. At the same time the ‘Épervier Project’ website (www.epervier.ca) was set up for communication and progress reports. On May 29, 2007, Bell Helicopter became a major sponsor. On May 30, the Rotax 582 engine was chosen as the power plant, and the Austrian enterprise confirmed its support as engine supplier.
Since the project had to be financed entirely by the students, support from suppliers and donors were critical to the success of the project. Understand also that the timeline for completion of the aircraft (ready for flight by the end of 2008) was a requirement for the students to receive course credit.
By June 1, 2007, JB Martin and Polymere Technologies had come on board with commitments to supply the composite materials, and the project was off and running.
June 30 and July 1 of 2007 saw all team members attend the Aeronautical Exhibition, organized by the Faucheurs de Marguerite at the Sherbrooke airport, giving them the opportunity to discuss their project with many pilots and contractors. The group consulted and resourced many aircraft and manufacturing processes, and spoke to numerous owners and operators. All team members saw this as an exceptional opportunity to advance their agenda.
Now came the product concept development stage. Samples were built and tested. On November 30, the spar’s centre section was tested to destruction. The test confirmed the groups design calculations of 12 “g”, breaking at a static load of 12.5 “g’s”.
In February 2008 the team brought their concept and plan to EAA Chapter 266 in Montreal. All 12 members traveled to this meeting and each presented his or her objective. All received the encouragement and best wishes of the chapter.
The cad drawings for all components and assemblies were completed, and the software used allows for flexibility in design changes that a potential builder may want for his/her specific flight profile.
By May 17, 2008, the team’s progress had reached the final design stage. The number of glass lay-ups for each component was being assessed. All mechanical parts had been designed and some were already being manufactured by various firms and sponsors; all in preparation for the next major step: Building the prototype.
Between the beginning of June and the end of September of 2008, the prototype took shape, and the Épervier was finished, sanded and prepared for its beautiful paint scheme.
Something about this aircraft: The wings are built of glass layups over a foam form. No ribs; just embedded spars and push-pull control rods and bell-cranks. Two attach-pins are easily and quickly removed from the wing root, and each 40-pound wing can be removed for trailering, or optionally, to replace the prototype aerobatic, symmetrical airfoil with another airfoil section, suitable for cruise or other lift/drag considerations.
Similarly the fuselage is shaped out of foam, glass layers applied, leaving a strong effective monocoque structure. With exception of a few control-kit manufactured parts (such as spars) this aircraft can be built without excessive demands on an amateur builder and without factory forms or molds. This should give it appeal to the amateur-aircraft builder.
The Épervier is complete with a ballistic parachute, and uses simple and affordable components like the canopy from a ‘Quickie’.
Maximum cruise speed: 240 km/h (150 mph)
Maximum speed (Vne): 261 km/h (162 mph)
Maximum climb rate: 6 m/s (1182 fpm)
Maximum climb angle: 8 degrees
Stall speed: 90 km/h (56 mph)
Best glide: 2.72 m/s at 106 km/h (543 fpm at 66 mph)
Gross weight: 354.6 kg (950 lbs.)
Height: 1.743 m (5.72 ft.)
Length: 5.433 m (17.82 ft.)
Width: 6 m (19.69 ft.)
Surface area: 6 sq. m (64.6 sq. ft.)
Aspect ratio: 6
Average cord: 1.04 m (3.41 ft.)
Aileron surface: 0.432 sq. m (4.65 sq. ft.)
Loading: 14.6 psf
Wing profile (root): NACA 0012
Wing Profile (tip): NACA 0012
Dihedral: 2 degrees
Editor’s Note: On November 21, 2008, I received an e-mail from Bill Evans, a member of EAA Chapter 266, bringing this project to my attention. The University had invited the public to view the student’s projects on Dec. 3, and Bill thought that this project and its connection with EAA deserved publicity in Bits and Pieces. I was delighted to attend and was really, really, impressed by this team.
The Épervier has had its sub-assembly, pre-cover, and final inspections done by the MD-RA Inspector, and has received its flight authority as an amateur-built aircraft. Taxi tests have been completed, and first flights were expected to take place within a week to 10 days.
I left the university, Centre Culturel de l’Université de Sherbrooke pumped! As I enjoyed my visit with these keen, energetic, enthusiastic, and successful leaders of tomorrow, I know our future is in very good hands.
- Jack Dueck