Kettering University’s SAE Aero Design team proud of successful flight at competition

Kettering University’s SAE Aero Design team was proud to see their plane in flight during a successful run at the SAE Aero Design West Challenge in April.

The team placed 23rd out of 36 teams in their class during the challenge, held April 6-9 in Van Nuys, California. 

“My favorite part of the competition is seeing our plane fly. Just seeing all our hard work in the past six months pay off in building and designing the aircraft. Out of 36 teams in the Regular Class portion, we were one of 16 teams actually fly,” said Josh Tol ‘18, Kettering Aero Design team leader. “We had some major successes this year. We hope to continue to improve the design we use and recruit more people and hopefully be able to even better next year.” Kettering's Aero Design team working at the 2018 competition

The SAE Aero Design competition is intended to provide undergraduate and graduate engineering students with a real-life engineering challenge. In this competition, students have to perform trade studies and make compromises to arrive at a design solution that will optimally meet the mission requirements while still conforming to the configuration limitations. The teams design and build the aircraft from scratch.

There are three main classes in the competition — Micro, regular and advanced. The Kettering team participated in the regular class competition. They had to design an aircraft that could carry the highest payload — added with steel plates — and hold the most passengers — added with tennis balls. They were restricted to 1000 watts of power to their motor and had to be able to take off in 200 feet.

The team’s aircraft had a 10-foot wingspan and was a little over 5 feet long. Despite a few setbacks — a broken wing from shipping and weak landing gear — at the beginning of the competition, the team came together and ended with a successful flight.

“I am extremely proud of the effort of our AeroDesign team members. They never gave up,” said Dr. Gregory W. Davis, Mechanical Engineering faculty member, director of the Advanced Engine Research Laboratory at Kettering and SAE Aero Design faculty advisor. “These events give our students the opportunity to put their classroom training to use to help solve real-life technical problems. The students' approach to these issues is unique — they think outside the box. Here at Kettering University, we are dedicated to providing engineering students with real-world problem solving experiences that will make them better engineers for the future.”   

Anyone interested in building, flying or designing planes can contact Tol at for more information about the SAE Aero Design team.