With a wingspan of 360 millimetres, a length of 1,150 millimetres and a weight of 391 grams, the plane entered by the winning team from Darmstadt is not only the biggest but at the same time also the heaviest of all the steel planes that participated in the “Steel Flies” competition in Hall 6 on the exhibition site in Düsseldorf. And that is not all: Hall 6 proved to be too small in two of five flights – the plane hit the wall.
With these two flights of 100 and 112 metres, the “Eagle” from Darmstadt flew considerably further than its rivals too, however. “The stability of the plane, its better leverage and the quality of the material used are the main factors that gave us the crucial edge” explains Hilmar Schubert from Darmstadt University. Together with his two fellow students Fridolin Weber and Hoang-Minh, he worked on the steel structure for almost two months. Another special highlight was the use of iron powder combined with epoxy resin. A further team from Darmstadt University and a team from RWTH Aachen University followed in 2nd and 3rd place.
The “Steel Flies” competition has a long tradition. The “Steel Research Association” from Düsseldorf launched it 17 years ago in order to emphasise in a special way that steel is the ideal material for lightweight applications. Ever since then, mechanical engineering students have accepted the challenge year in, year out, developing any number of creative steel planes. This year, students from the universities of Aachen, Bremen, Darmstadt, Dortmund and Kassel took part in the competition. The particular challenge was to design and build structures that fly without being driven by an engine of their own.