Up, Up, Up… and Down We Go!

Second year Aerospace Electronics student, Mohd Huzyer, fulfilled his dream of flying when he piloted a home-made aircraft off a 6-metre-high ramp and into the air, when he competed in the inaugural Red Bull Flutag event held at Sentosa’s Siloso Beach on 28 Oct 2012. He shares his experience…

I have finally fulfilled my dream of flying! I piloted a home-made flying machine off a 6-metre-high ramp, into the air – and into the water. Well, I crashed, but I was airborne for a good 5 seconds! That’s good enough for me!

I was taking part in the inaugural Red Bull Flutag event held at Sentosa’s Siloso Beach on 28 Oct 2012 with a dozen of other students from the Diploma in Aerospace Engineering and Aerospace Electronics. The Red Bull Flugtag (“Flutag” is German for “flight day”, or “airshow”) is an event organised by Red Bull in which competitors attempt to fly home-made, human-powered flying machines as far as they can. The flying machines have to be no more than 10m in length and weigh no more than 150 kg.

When I first heard of this competition, I felt that it would be a great experience to apply what I have learnt in class to a real life situation! I would be building a mini flying machine from scratch! I guess, this would be an interesting experience for us in our Polytechnic life as well.

So I got together with some AEL mates and during our first meet up session, we discussed how we would like to design our flying machine. Should we consider making it look good but weak, or should we make it dull but a superb flying machine? In the end, we actually steered off our initial design and decided to go for a good looking yet lightweight and aerodynamic flying machine!

There were actually many considerations we had to take into account when building the flying machine. We did not know how the structure should be built. Should the wings of the flying machine be long or short? Should the body be big or small? There were so many questions running through our minds. We sat down, took out pieces of scrap paper and each of us drew a design that we liked. We took these designs and showed our lecturers, who gave their input. Our lecturers told us that in order for a flying machine to fly well, we had to keep in mind the principle of aerodynamics (that is, the aircraft’s shape should provide the least wind resistance), wind propulsion and weight. We are very glad that we came out with a decision in the end!

We choose to build our flying machine with long wings and medium sized body, using lightweight materials such as plastics, cardboard and styrofoam. This was actually an inspiration from our school’s very own real SkyHawk aircraft at level 1! The nights where we had to build the flying machine was tough. We had to burn the midnight oil and stay back on various occasions after school, to continue building up our structure. We had to build our flying machine from scratch hence it needed a lot of commitment, skills, time and effort. Even during the holidays, we had to come back to school to design and finish up our final product before the competition!

Building the flying machine in a TP lab

There were many times that we wanted to give up. Thankfully, we had our lecturers with us to support and motivate us. Also, what motivated and encouraged me to press on is the once-in-a-lifetime experience that we would get on competition day. We had come so far to build the flying machine up and if we were to give up, we would have wasted all the effort from the start. Also, my team had nominated me to fly the flying machine on the actual competition day! Yes, I would be the pilot! I guess this was the part where I had the most motivation to continue. I want to fly. I want to feel how it is like to be a pilot, even for a few seconds or even minutes. This would be the closest thing I would get to fly an “aircraft”. So, I was really excited and nervous at the same time.

Before the competition, my team and I actually wanted to test the flying machine to see whether it would work. But on second thoughts, we decided to abandon the thought. The flying machine was our hard work and blood. Testing it would mean the flying machine would crash, and would be damaged. If we were not able to rebuild it in time, we would be disqualified!

Finally, the actual day came. The two teams from Temasek Poly were among 38 teams which put their human-powered flying machine to the test in an attempt to record the longest airborne flight. I was nervous and my palms were perspiring. My team encouraged me and told me to think about the fun! At last, it was our turn. We carried our flying machine up to the platform. As I climbed each step, higher and higher, my fear got greater. I was really afraid yet excited. I wanted to show our work to everyone, yet I was afraid it would be disappointing.

A portion of the 35,000 spectators who had a flying good time

When it was my turn, my fears vanished. I heard the crowd cheer very loudly. From the top of the platform, I could see the tiny Temasek Polytechnic students there in the crowd cheering for us. It felt so surreal. I felt like I was a star on television and the crowd was my fans! It was time I showed everyone what Temasek Polytechnic students can do! I climbed into my “cockpit” and my buddies pushed the flying machine off the platform as hard as they could. Airborne!

Team Temasek’s aircraft taking off…

I’ve never done bungee jumping before, but hey, this was the next best thing! I looked ahead, saw the open sky in the distance, and as the flying machine left the platform, I could see the clouds swooshing upwards and in an instant, I heard a loud splash. Next thing I knew, I was surrounded by water and helpers in mini boats came up to me. “Are you all right, sir?”, I heard a voice. “I’m OK… but how are the passengers?” I replied in jest.

… and crashing into the water

Our flying machine had crashed within 5 seconds, but hey, it was the experience which mattered! I actually felt a little embarrassed as I came back to shore, but my team mates cheered and gave me a loud round of applause.

The whole experience from drawing board to platform, from designing and building the flying machine, to participating in the competition, was overwhelming. It showed me that I actually had the determination to go forward even though I felt like giving up halfway. It showed me how difficult building a flying machine was. In the process, we did enhance our knowledge of aircraft design, principles of flight, and aerodynamics. And of course, what mattered most was the fun! I mean, how often do you get to design, build and fly a flying machine? Well, I had the chance and I did it!

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