New Mexico Tech's Team Albatross Finishes 25th in Maiden Effort

By Thomas Guengerich

SOCORRO, N.M., March 12, 2009 – The New Mexico Tech team completed Tech’s very first airplane design and competed in the SAE Aero design and performance competition last weekend at Van Nuys, CA. Team Albatross came away with a great experience and motivation to improve next year.

Team Albatross

Right: Team Albatross put together a heroic effort just to compete in Tech's first effort at the SAE airplane competition. From left are Daniel King, Bianca Luevano, Toby Hartman, Ben Cooper, Keith Thomas, Tamara Dixon and Matt Swanson.

Team Albatross took 25th place in its division and 10th in the sales presentation competition. The Tech students also received several votes for the innovation award.

Team Albatross was eight students in the mechanical engineering Senior Design Clinic. They designed, tested and fabricated an aluminum plane with prototype wings and tail section.

New Mexico Tech's participation marked the first ever entry in the Society of Automotive Engineers' radio-controlled airplane design and flight competition.

Team Albatross

Team Albatross's plane completed about three-quarters of the circuit before losing power and crashing in a field. Team members Matt Swanson, Daniel King and Toby Hartman recover the wreckage.

“Our flying success was very limited,” Hartman said via e-mail. “The plane took off very effortlessly and completed three-quarters of the circuit flawlessly. All of a sudden, all of the controls got cut to the plane. With loss of control, the plane came tumbling out of the sky.

“It was heartbreaking, but a great learning experience,” he said. “The team has gotten even more motivated for next year after seeing all the different designs at the competition. Though the team was hoping for a little better success it is already hard at work trying to find, understand and improve any flaws out of the system. I know the team is hopeful to go back next year with a much better design and do great at the competition.”

Hartman is the lone team member who will graduate this year. The other team members – Tamara Dixon, Justin Guthrie, Ben Cooper, Toby Hartman, Matt Swanson, Daniel King, Bianca Luevano and Keith Thomas – will return to anchor an experience and senior-laden team.

– NMT –