Aerodynamics hobby wins ARL research scientist top honors in international aircraft competition

November 27, 2012

Story Highlights

  • Brett Sanborn, WMRD, won team honors in an aeromodeling competition at the 2012 FAI F1D World Championship in Belgrade, Serbia, where he showcased a free flight airplane. The competition is organized by International Federation of Aeronautics, the governing body that rules all of aviation sport.
  • Sanborn, a member of the high rate experimental mechanics team of the Soldier Protection Sciences Branch, joined with John Kagan of Cleveland, Ohio, and Nick Ray of Atlanta, Ga., to win first among 20 teams representing the U.S., Europe, Australia and Asia.
  • Sanborn ranked third of 37 competitors in the individual awards competition.

Brett Sanborn's recent international accomplishments didn't receive the same kind of attention as Australian skydiver Felix Baumgartner.

But the same authority that confirmed Baumgartner's skydive leap from 128,000 feet to make aerospace history named Sanborn a world champion in another of its aerospace competitions in August.

He won team honors in an aeromodeling competition at the 2012 FAI F1D World Championship in Belgrade, Serbia, where he showcased a free-flight airplane. The competition is organized by International Federation of Aeronautics, the governing body that rules all of aviation sport.

Sanborn, a member of the Weapons and Materials Research Directorate's high rate experimental mechanics team of the Soldier Protection Sciences Branch, joined with John Kagan of Cleveland, Ohio, and Nick Ray of Atlanta, Ga., to win first among 20 teams representing the U.S., Europe, Australia and Asia.

Sanborn ranked third of 37 competitors in the individual awards competition.

The F1D is a discipline of model airplane where modelers construct an airplane that must have a maximum wingspan of 55 centimeters and weighs no less than 1.2 grams. Driven only by a 0.6 gram rubber band, the indoor airplane is expected to be flown with a goal of achieving the longest flight time amongst the competitors, competition literature stated. After a maximum of six attempts at no more than 30 minutes each flight, competitors best two flights are totaled to comprise an overall score.

"I got involved with flying rubber band powered airplanes in high school through a program called Science Olympiad. In the Science Olympiad, teams of 15 kids from a school compete in science events that are either testing events or building events. Testing events might be things like chemistry lab, experimental design, rocks and minerals, while building events might be things like building a bridge, trebuchet, or rubber band powered airplane to meet a goal, such as amount of weight held, distance thrown, or total time in the air as in the case of the rubber band powered plane," he said.

He competed in the Wright Stuff for a few years before trying out for the U.S. Junior F1D team. The team trials are held for the world championships the year before the competition. In 2004, he placed second at the junior championships.

He said the F1D competition is lot more challenging than the Wright Stuff.

The Wright Stuff airplane flies for only about three to four minutes and weighs about eight to 10 grams, which is quite heavy and robust. F1Ds weigh a mere 1.2 grams and fly for over 30 minutes. The highly delicate materials and structure make the F1D difficult to construct.

After overcoming the hurdle of construction, I made the U.S. Junior team and competed at my first world championships a year later. Ever since then I've continued to improve my planes and flying ability.

Earlier in June of 2012, Brett competed at the USA Indoor National Championships in Johnson City, Tenn. and won first place in F1D with a flight time of 36 minutes and 31 seconds, securing his second national championship title since 2008. Later in July 2012 at a hangar in Lakehurst, N.J., Sanborn broke a world record that stood for nine years. The previous record for the longest flight was 41 minutes and 42 seconds held by Romanian Aurel Popa—Brett's flight landed with 42 minutes and 3 seconds on the stopwatch.

At the 2010 World Championship, Brett Sanborn placed fifth with a respectable time of 68:35. In the last two years, Brett has greatly improved his F1D program by building brand new models and VP hubs. Most recently, he has used carbon outlines for his prop. In April 2012, he set a new AMA Cat II record at Kent. In May at the United States Indoor Championship, he placed first and set a new USIC record. In July, he set a Cat IV world record of 42:05.

"I hope to keep doing well at these competitions and come up with more innovative ideas to improve the design and efficiency of these airplanes. The qualification for the 2014 US team will be held in July in Moscow, Idaho. I will start ramping up my F1D program in the coming months so that my models are in shape to hopefully do well and make the team so I get another shot at the individual world title in 2014," he said.

 

Last Update / Reviewed: November 27, 2012