Soaring High in Tucson

It’s been a few weeks since competition wrapped up now, but Miner Aviation is still riding the high of a top 15 finish in the 2019 AIAA Design Build Fly event in Tucson, Arizona. Since this was our first time with the new competition, we weren’t quite sure of what to expect. Overall, we greatly enjoyed a challenging mission with some very impressive competitors.

Day one saw us gearing up for technical inspection and the ground mission. After fixing some minor damage to our radome, we passed inspection with flying colors. It’s a wonderful feeling to arrive at competition knowing you have a sturdy aircraft that’s capable of nearly anything you could throw at it!

Donnita Johnson and Evan Guyett check the electronics during technical inspection.

Evan Guyett prepares for a motor and safety test.

Competition offers the unique experience of being able to collaborate with your competitors. Our team loved spending time getting to know everyone and seeing their unique ideas. This gave us some valuable knowledge that we’ll be using during next year’s design process. It was also just plain fun to interact with universities from around the world. Some teams even gave our plane the nickname “The Green Giant.”

Hamming Lin attaches attack stores during the ground mission.

The object of the ground mission was to unfold the plane’s wings and assemble it for various missions in the fastest time possible. We easily completed the ground mission on our first try in about 34 seconds.

The second day saw the beginning of the flight rounds. While there were a lot of crashes, Miner Aviation and The Green Giant ended up unscathed. Mission 1 called for the plane to complete three laps around the course, which we performed easily. Mission 2 called for the plane to fly 3 laps around the course as fast as it could with the radome attached and visibly rotating. The first time we attempted Mission 2 the radome unfortunately detached mid-flight.

The radome gracefully floats down.

Hamming Lin holds the radome outside of the rental van’s window to mimic the forces on it during flight.

After fixing the radome we re-attempted Mission 2 and successfully completed it in 2 minutes and 34 seconds. We didn’t have the fastest plane at the competition but we were still proud of what we had accomplished.

The Dragonfly, aka The Green Giant successfully performing Mission 1.

Day three saw the continuation of the flight rounds. We successfully completed Mission 3 by dropping 6 attack stores, which also meant that we had completed all of the flight rounds!


The Dragonfly drops its last attack store of the competition, completing its final mission.

After we completed the flight rounds we went back to try and improve our ground mission time. After making some adjustments, we were able to nearly cut our original time in half by performing the ground mission in 18 seconds! Every point counts!

On the fourth and final day of competition, since we had completed all the missions and could no longer improve our score, we decided to support the other teams and watch the end of the competition and awards ceremony. We ended up ranking 15th out of 104 eligible teams, and we were one of only 26 teams to successfully complete all of the missions!

All in all, we’re very happy with how we placed in our first year with the AIAA Design Build Fly competition. We’ve already started to plan for next year, and our new leads and officers are excited to get to work. We’ll be approaching next year’s competition with a winning mindset, and I’m certain we can perform even better than we did this year.

The team poses with the plane after it completes its first flight of the competition.

Words can’t describe how proud I am of this team and the transformation we’ve taken over the 4 years that I’ve been involved. I have been so unbelievably lucky to get to build planes with some of my best friends. I have full confidence in next years’ executive board to go above and beyond and continue to grow this team to be better than it ever has been. Thank you for letting me spend this past year as Miner Aviation’s president.

I would also like to extend one more thank you to our supporters for helping us get this far. It’s not an exaggeration to say that we wouldn’t be here without your encouragement. I hope that you will continue to support us in the future as we attempt to accomplish even greater goals with the AIAA Design Build Fly competition.

Next year, these blog posts will be written by the new president, Donnita Johnson, who has some amazing ideas on how to improve our team for the long term.

Keep watching out for the Miners In Flight!

The executive board for the 2019-2020 competition season.