Does it fly? Top test pilot to judge student competition for aircraft designs using flight simulator

Students from universities in the UK and USA will have their aircraft designs flown and assessed by a professional test pilot, using Swansea University’s flight simulator, as part of the annual IT FLIES competition, which takes place at the University’s College of Engineering on Wednesday 10 June.

IT FLIES is a unique student competition held annually in the UK and the USA.   Students from universities have to come up with a design for a whole aircraft.  This can be any type of craft, with past entries including not only jets but also helicopters, rockets, airships and even human-powered aircraft.  

The students’ designs are then tested by a professional test pilot, using the University’s Merlin MP521 flight simulator, which is supplied by Merlin Flight Simulation Group and based in the College of Engineering.

Swansea University, which is hosting the competition for a second time, is entering two teams this year. The University has traditionally done very well in IT FLIES UK and USA, and is a past winner, reflecting the good reputation of the College of Engineering.  This year’s teams will be hoping to maintain Swansea’s good record in the competition.

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Picture:  a test pilot flying a student design as part of the IT FLIES competition

Dr Nick Croft, Portfolio Director Aerospace Engineering, from Swansea University College of Engineering, said:

"To get an aircraft from drawing board to runway takes years.  Students in the competition have a matter of weeks, but the challenge is to develop a concept as far as they can in the limited time they have.   

Of course the key question is: does it fly?   There’s no better way to find out than have a test pilot try it.  The IT FLIES competition is a great way for students to see how well their ideas work in practice.  They can get feedback on their work from a top test pilot, helping them develop their skills."

Flight simulator‌Picture:  Swansea University flight simulator

Marion Neal from Merlin Flight Simulation Group, which manufactured the simulators installed in Swansea University’s College of Engineering, said:

"Student teams competing are from Cambridge, Glyndwr, Manchester, Sheffield Hallam, Swansea, and The University of Dayton, Ohio, USA, with a wide variety of aircraft designs.  

Chief Flying Judge will be Dave Southwood, a top UK test pilot, who teaches at The Empire Test Pilots School, Boscombe Down.  Dave has a wealth of experience and over 10,000 flying hours on 150 aircraft types – the perfect person to assess the flying performance of the students’ designs!"

Merlin will be supplying a new simulator for Swansea University’s College of Engineering, bringing their complement to three, all housed at the University’s Bay Campus opening in September.