Project First Flight Reflections
As a youngster—like many I imagine, I often looked to the sky in wonder. My dreams, thoughts and ultimately my future, forged by a fascination of flight. I had no mentor, no guiding light, nor a kindred spirit…Solo Flight was for the privileged, the favored and the fortunate few. Picture if you will, youngsters or disabled adults with that yearning, desire, dreams unfulfilled. There is currently no one set, prepared or capable to fill the void…
That all changes…NOW!
Project First Flight Mission Statement
To inspire, educate, mentor, and enable youth or special need adults to achieve the dream of flight in a timely, solo towed glider flight.
To eliminate the financial burdens associated with learning to fly by affordably providing flight program information, gliders, and equipment to vetted, capable, interested and collaborative, Non-Profit Organizations.
To provide transparent research, development, testing and continual improvement of a winch and towed-glider systems to achieve our Mission safely through grants and donations to Project First Flight.
A healthy, innovative, interconnected nationwide community that thrives on inspiring the passion for entry level flight experiences. An organization which continually improves and provides excellence in the products they develop and the services they offer. One that prioritizes safety and security of the youth or special need adults that embark on the First Flight experience. The core of which will culminate in an extraordinary solo towed glider flight that both inspires and encourages.
Skonkwerks is known for excellence in rudimentary flying machine design, construction, and testing. Project First Flight is a natural and intuitive step to give back to the community, nurture the culture and provide opportunities for interested youth and special need adults to live the dream, enrich their lives and experience firsthand—the magic of solo flight.
To act in the can-do spirit of community and co-operation. To mentor personal growth, development, and continual learning. To promote safety, consistent communication, encouragement, and balance. To never say, “I can’t.”
Promote flying and aviation with a ‘can do’ spirit. To create a setting which nurtures confidence in one’s own abilities and opens the door to friendships and comraderies.
Maintain a culture that is friendly relaxed and appropriately balances professionalism and service with fun and the adventure of aviation.
To strive for a program which challenges, mentors, promotes teamwork, and builds trust across ages, backgrounds, socio-economic, or otherwise impaired conditions.
These two gearboxes were purchased as our ‘first best bet.’ The one on the left will probably be used on the three point hitch, winch prototype #1. Eventually it will probably be best to go with a hydraulic motor but for proof of concept, an all mechanical system will suffice.
First Flight Glider
(not really a glider but a towed aerial vehicle)
Safety is first on the list of design criteria, but if safety were the only concern the ship would never leave the dock.
F = ma (Force is equal to the mass times acceleration)
The magnitude of the drag force Fd is proportional to the square of the speed of the object therefore the higher the drag the faster the object will stop when the driving force is removed. Drag can also be used to aerodynamically stabilize the glider which would put a good portion of control in the hands of the winch operator. If the winch cable should release, we don’t want them gliding off somewhere.
ma = F (Mass times acceleration is equal to the force needed to stop it.) The lower the mass and the lower the speed the lower the damage to craft and occupant during impact.
Triangulated pilot pod designed to absorb impact between -10° and -45° with special attention to additional crush protection at the base of the spine. The seat should be of a wraparound design with four- or five-point restraints.
The pod needs to be capable of quickly and easily adjusting to accommodate pilots from 72” @ 200# to 52” @ 60#. while keeping the CG limitations in check. Incremental adjustability to the seat, joystick and possibly landing gear will need to be addressed.
(Except rudder) At worst—Struts & jury struts, at best…a cantilever wing.
Modular: (to facilitate shipping)
Ease of Construction:
Stable ground handling:
Easy to build from plans:
Easy to build from kits:
Kits that are easy to build:
Typical airplane like handling on the ground as well as in the air is important to assure the flight experience translates well.
Preliminary drawings for the pilot pod frames, there will be two, one right and one left. To be constructed from 1″ .035W 4130. There will be one on each side of the pilot.
Still playing with the geometry but the tubes (you see them as round circles) on the top will be the leading and trailing edge. The axle will be infinitely adjustable fore and aft. The seat and joystick will also be ‘snap’ adjustable.
Here you can see the pilot pod frame. Don’t beat me up about the measurements, they are currently just very rough estimates. The lower tubes will be 18″ apart and will be partially held together in parallels by the adjustable wheel location slider, the adjustable seat slider and the adjustable joy stick slider. In addition the rudder pedal cross member will be a strengthening member. The pilot pod frames will be tilted out to parallels at 32″ apart on the top. For the sake of description try to picture 32″ long tubes fore and aft with a wing panel and a batten on each side. The wing leading and trailing edge will plug into these tubes.
The running/suspension gear for the glider is done. The entire assembly weighs in at 6#2.2oz. With a slight modification we can decrease that by almost 5.3oz. though. The wheels are 20″ Rant Squad Rims. The spokes and nipples are titanium from PorkchopBMX. The tires are Shadow Conspiracy Serpents. The wheel bushings are from Oiles America Corp. The axle is from Liberty Pultrusion and is a Carbon Polyglass combo EHS…Super strong but flexible. And the innertubes…OMG the tubes you won’t believe!
The innertubes are from France and they are 20″ Turbolitos with Schrader valves the tube comes in at TWO POINT FOUR ounces! Amazing! The Presta valves are a little lighter but mostly used Europe and can require a little different ‘spare parts’ so we stuck with the Schrader.
Except for a few straggling peripherals Project First Flight fuselage for prototype 1a is basically done. It has been 2 months and change since the project was initiated during the end of the first quarter, 2021. Since…we have improved some processes, procedures, and techniques, learned new things and secret handshakes, upgraded equipment, built fixtures and construction gadgetry, made lots of mistakes and had our share of re-do’s—“It’s just a rudimentary flying machine.” but the physics, geometry and engineering are anything but rudimentary. We discovered; once again, the joy of dreaming, designing, then building— building something that flies!
Over the next month we plan to finalize the communication method—we’ll play our first best bet, initiate taxi trials…Everything depends on the help, but we intend to design, and construct the wings and their associated support structures, sew the sails, and cover the tail. The First Flight Flyer’s first flight (can you even say that?) is tentatively set for July 4th.