Logo: University of Southern California

USC AeroDesign Team Wins National Flight Competition

On it's 25th anniversary, the AeroDesign Team won the Global Cessna/Raytheon Missile Systems Student Design/Build/Fly Competition
April 29, 2014 —

Approaching it’s 25th anniversary as an organization, the USC AeroDesign team wanted to pull off something special—and that it did.

The AeroDesign Team went to Wichita, Kansas for the annual Cessna/Raytheon Missile Systems Student Design/Build/Fly competition and finished in first place—beating out 72 other teams from 29 states and 15 countries.

The competition was held at the Cessna East Field from April 11-13, and about 700 students, faculty, and guests attended.

The roughly 20-member team performed masterfully at the event—navigating through four separate flight missions.

The pilot for the AeroDesign Team was Wyatt Sadler, a seasoned industry vet, advisor to the team, and founding member of the team 25 years ago.

USC AeroDesign Team Prepares For Launch At Cessna East Field in Wichita, Kansas

The first challenge was a non-flight taxi mission, which required that the plane successfully traverse a rough field. The second mission was a timed empty flight mission. The AeroDesign team’s plane completed seven laps in four minutes, making it the fastest plane in this event.

The third and fourth missions both required the plane to transport weight, with the fourth mission also being timed for speed.

 Samantha Westall, AeroDesign program manager, attributes the plane’s success to it’s lightweight design.

The fuselage was constructed primarily with Kevlar, and included a foam truss with carbon tow structure in the layup.

"Our aircraft weighed only 1.88 lbs.” Westall said. “We were one of the lightest and that gave us an advantage throughout all the missions."

“The plane was a beauty and one of the best engineered aircraft the team has built,” Charles Radovich, faculty advisor to the AeroDesign Team, added.

The USC AeroDesign Team is among the largest design teams at USC with about 50 active members led by three team captains and 10 sub-team captains. USC's squad includes students from all engineering disciplines. The team is supported by an outstanding cast of five faculty advisors, alumni, and industry engineers. 

The team, which works hard all year to prepare for the AIAA-DBF competition, built nine planes before perfecting the design for the Kansas competition.

“After each design iteration, changes are made to specific parts of the plane,” Radovich said. 

The team has had success throughout it’s history with many top 3 finishes. Since 2000, it has consistently finished in the top five out of 80 teams, including a 2nd place finish in 2010.

The last time the team won it all was 1998 - until now.