sealPurdue News

July 31, 2000

Students receive two awards at national competition

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A seven-member team of Purdue University engineering students won two awards at a national competition for designing an aircraft that wouldn't need a runway because it could land and take off on any relatively flat surface, including water.

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The students, five from the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics and two from the School of Mechanical Engineering, received second place for the design of their craft, the Silairus 490. They also won the Best Use of Air-Force-Developed Technology award during the National General Aviation Design Competition, sponsored by NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory. The competition challenges participants to design a usable single-pilot aircraft for general aviation.

Five awards were presented today (Saturday, 7/29) during a ceremony held at Air Venture 2000, the Experimental Aircraft Association's Annual Convention and Fly-In in Oshkosh, Wis. The first-place winner was a 28-member team from Virginia Tech.

"This is the sixth year for this competition, but it is the first year we have competed in it," said Purdue team advisor William Crossley, an assistant professor in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics. "I am really pleased they did so well, especially since the students worked on their craft on their own time."

Team members are aeronautics and astronautics majors Chris Peters, a senior from Hamburg, Germany; Tyson Strutzenberg, a senior from Fort Wayne, Ind.; Jeff Rodrian, a senior from Grafton, Wis.; Michael Konigs, a 2000 graduate from New Berlin, Wis.; and Keith Hout, a senior from Mansfield, Ohio. Other team members are Craig Malmloff, Fort Wayne, Ind., and Brian Pfeiffer, Indianapolis, both mechanical engineering 2000 graduates.

Peters, the team's leader, began designing the aircraft two years ago.

"It's basically like a hover craft with wings," Peters said, noting that the plane is designed to land and take off from any surface, including "ice, water, grass, cultivated fields, gravel, airports, anything."

The Silairus 490 is a six-passenger, high-performance piston engine plane with amphibious capabilities and an "air cushion landing system."

Crossley says it's the air cushion landing system that enables the plane to land and take off without a runway.

"Pilots could conceivably land such an airplane in their backyards," Crossley said, noting that the aircraft requires only a "moderately flat surface" to land and take off.

Some of the students on the team created their own software to design the unusual aircraft, which exists entirely as a computer concept. No physical models have yet been constructed, although students could build a model in follow-up work.

To design the plane, students drew on lessons learned in classes about subjects such as aerodynamics, aircraft structures and aircraft stability and control.

The Purdue students received $2,000 for their second-place award and $3,000 for the Air Force award.

Other winners in the competition were a 10-member team from Pennsylvania State University, third place, and the Best Retrofit Design Award, which went to a four-student team from the University of Oklahoma.

The competition is managed for NASA and the FAA by the Virginia Space Grant Consortium. Information on the 2000-2001 competition can be obtained by calling (757) 865-0726 or e-mailing consortium director Mary Sandy at

Sources: William Crossley, (757) 864-2149,

Chris Peters, (765) 430-5165,

Writers: Emil Venere and Cynthia Sequin, (765) 494-4709,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;


The Silairus 490, a six-passenger, high-performance piston engine aircraft with amphibious capabilities, won second place for a Purdue University student team in the National General Aviation Design Competition, which is sponsored by NASA and the FAA. The aircraft also received the Best Use of Air-Force-Developed Technology award in the competition for its use of an air cushion landing system developed by the Air Force. (Photo courtesy William Crossley)
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