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Embry-Riddle Prescott Club Building an RV-12

  • Team members work
    Team members work on attaching the bottom skin of their project RV-12.
  • EAS estimates total build time at about a year and a half.
    EAS estimates total build time at about a year and a half.

April 2, 2015 - In the spring of 2014, a team of dedicated undergraduates at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Prescott, Arizona, campus founded Eagle Aero Sport, the school’s first student-operated aircraft build and research team. A year later, the team is well on its way to building a Van’s RV-12 light-sport aircraft.

Eagle Aero Sport Team will build and use the airplane as a flying test bed for research in aircraft structural analysis, strain gauge analysis, advancement in integrated avionics systems and ADS-B transponders, and meteorological research. Future plans also include airframe modification and development for unmanned aircraft system components for a “pilot optional” cockpit.

Douglas Young, an aviation business administration major, serves as Eagle Aero Sport public relations/marketing lead. “This is the first student build we’ve ever had on campus,” he said. “The plan is to build the plane providing students with the hands-on experience, then engineers will install probes and sensors so we can conduct the research. Plans also include making an optionally operated aircraft that can be piloted remotely.”

The project will also provide students with an understanding of what they need to do to complete the airplane. That’s good for the resume, whether one is a pilot or not, demonstrating to companies that the students possess real skills and can be responsible enough to document their hours working on an actual airplane in a safe working environment.

Eagle Aero Sport has about 50 members who are part of four separate teams: the build team, engineering team, safety team, and business team.

The build team includes seven A&P mechanics who serve as build session leads. These individuals are certified to sign off on any labor done by the team members. The hours put in by the build team members are logged for future reference. Build team members receive thorough training to ensure they can work safely and efficiently. Team members often work in conjunction with the engineering team so that both teams can gain insight into the other aspects of the project.

Engineering team members can use ERAU’s vast software, manufacturing, and testing facilities to design and build their own sensors and probes to mount to the aircraft, as well as run tests on parts of the aircraft itself. Engineering team members may choose between three sub-teams: structures, aerodynamics, or electrical engineering.

“The thing I like about EAS is I get hands-on experience building an airplane along with being able to apply my engineering education to it,” Isaac Hein, the engineering team lead, said. “Almost every day I get to approve a new engineering feature that will be applied to the RV-12, and to me that is simply awesome.”

Business team members are responsible for securing funding through donations and grants, marketing the team to suppliers and other outside companies, and exposure through the media.

With the airplane’s center section coming together, team members are beginning to see the project starting to look like an actual airplane, Young said. They’re also getting assistance from EAA Chapter 658, Prescott. Chapter member Bill DeRouchey, EAA 561449, has already built two RV-12s. The project is also in coordination with Van’s Aircraft, Synergy Air, and other sponsors.

In its promotional materials, Eagle Aero Sport writes, “Aviation is what we love, and we strive to innovate our industry while learning, building, and performing research in order to become professionals in our fields. We believe that through education comes intelligence, but intelligence is worthless without experience.”

“The student-built RV-12 aircraft is ultimately being built to serve as a flight test engineering platform for university research projects in aerodynamic and structural analysis, as well as aircraft sensors and instrumentation innovation,” said Phil Riek, EAS president.

Young said the plane will take about a year and a half to complete. No work is planned during the summer months.

To learn more about the project, like Embry-Riddle Eagle Aero Sport on Facebook, and visit the team’s website.

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