Logo: University of Southern California

AME Undergrad Excels in AIAA Light Plane Design Competition

Next project: a 150-passenger environmentally friendly passenger aircraft

March 07, 2009 —

Sina Golshany, a junior in the Viterbi School's Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, won first place in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics student aircraft design 2007-8 competition, the first USC student ever to capture the honor.

Sina Golshany: AME junior is the only USC student to ever place in an AIAA design competion— and has done so twice. [photos Diane Ainsworth]

It was Golshany's second award in the prestigious and highly competitive contest that the AIAA has been sponsoring for more than 30 years.  His third-place finish last year was the first time any USC student had ever won a prize in the competition.

And the victory has propelled him into a key role in an even more ambitious project: design of a 'green' 150-seat airliner this year.

AME Professors Oussama Safadi and Ron Blackwelder worked with Golshany as his faculty and project advisor respectively. This year's AIAA assignment, said Safadi, was to design a "transient"  trainer designed for advanced student pilots. 

According to Safadi  "Sina responded to the design requirements by designing Aquila, built to accommodate two passengers, a flight instructor and a student, capable of carrying its passengers up to 35,000 feet at speeds as high as 350 knots. It weighs only 2600 lbs, a very low figure achieved by high use of composites in the design."

Another impressively low figure was also achieved by the use of composites: the projected cost is about $1.5 million, far less than other aircraft in its class.

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Aquila. The design allows the flight instructor to tailor the handling qualities of the trainer to match wide range of aircraft.
Golshany said the main obstacle he faced in the project was the novelty of the aircraft. "Usually when you design, you're able to base your design on what has gone before. But for this, I had almost no empirical data; it all had to be projected from theoretical principles."

Safadi noted that "the most innovative aspect of this design is a system that allows the flight instructor to tailor the handling qualities of the trainer to match a wide range of aircraft, including VLJs (Very Light Jets), business jets and small commercial aircraft. That is, Aquila is able to simulate the flight behavior of whichever of these aircraft the student is training to fly."

Blackwelder amplified: "The novelty of Sina's design lies in the flight control system and the versatile aerodynamics of the plane. The computer algorithms and the planeís control surfaces allow the Aquila  to act as a 'flying flight simulator,' thus bringing a new level of simulation to the pilot. This versatility also provides a realistic platform to test new ideas and control algorithms on existing or new aircraft while they are in the design stage."

Golshany's design package included a 100-page proposal, two volumes of calculations (each 150 pages) detailing the process of sizing and justifying the design, and a set of large scale drawings.

 The AIAA judges analyzed this package using four criteria of merit:

  1. Technical Contents (Correctness of theory, validity of the reasoning used, understanding and grasp of the subject, etc.)
  2. Organization and Presentation (Organization of written design, clarity, and inclusion of pertaint information)
  3. Originality (avoiding standard textbook information, independence of thinking and a fresh approach to the problem)
  4. Practical Application and Feasibility (presenting conclusions and recommendations that are realistic and achievable)

Golshany learned of  his prize in October. In February, a ceremony was held, with Dean Yannis C. Yortsos presenting him an award plaque in the presence of AME Department Chair Michael E. Kassner and Golshany's two faculty advisors. 

"A lot of credit in this successful story," said Safadi, "should go to Professor Blackwelder for his dedication to his career over a span of four decades, and for taking the lead in similar projects."

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Celebration of a USC first: (from left) AME Chair Michael E. Kassner, Associate Professor of Engineering Practice Oussama Safadi, Dean Yannis C. Yortsos, Sina Golshany, Professor Ron Blackwelder.

Golshany  has now gone on to a more ambitious project, as a member of a 9-member team designing a 150-seat passenger aircraft with less enviornmental impacts than current models. This AIAA team contest was announced in September.

The task: design "a new commercial transport design that seats 150 (dual class) passengers with US transcontinental range capability.  The aircraft will show significant improvements in fuel burn (with associated CO2 reduction), reduced community noise, while maintaining or improving productivity and passenger comfort standards.  Key elements are to determine the appropriate technology balance, estimate the size, weight and performance and operating cost of the proposed design.  The airplane acquisition cost must be competitive with the airplanes it will replace."

Golshany's  team is mostly from AME, but also includes students from Biomedical Engineering and the School of Architecture. The group is now meeting weekly on the design, working toward a June 12 submission deadline.

Currently this team includes Chuck Peot (Team Manager, CoG, & Mass Distribution); Sina Golshany (Lead Designer); Kristina Larson (Aerodynamics, Mission Analysis, Performance, & Flight Dynamics); architecture student Devin Lewis (CAD management and integration, Interior Architecture & Aesthetics); Vanessa Wright (Aerodynamics, Performance, & Stability); Michael Mulugeta Asfaw (Avionics & System Integration); Babak Baradaran(Structure and Landing Gear); BME major Taylor Chen ( Propulsion Integration, Alternative Fuels, Noise, & Environmental Impact); and Chris Lovdahl (Weight & Inertia)

Golshany's earlier project was the "Phoenix Flyer," subject of an August 2008 Viterbi News Story.