Three Civil Air Patrol cadets from the Albuquerque Heights Composite Squadron will compete in the Romania World Championship Indoor Duration Model Airplanes Team challenge Dec. 11-12.
Odessa Wignall, Quinn Sorbello and Elijah Rose of the Composite Squadron will be traveling with junior team member Guha Ekambram of Austin, Texas, and coach Chuck Andraka to show off their engineering skills while representing the United States in Slanic Prahove, Romania. The team is scheduled to depart Dec. 7.
Maj. Mary Fox, Albuquerque Heights Composite Squadron Commander, said in an email that each competitor will travel with at least one parent, and that one of the competitors will have a sibling come along for the trip.
“Jessamine Wignall (a previous CAP cadet, and sibling to one of the competitors) is an official timer for the event. She is currently a New Mexico Military Institute senior who lives in the NE Heights with sibling and family,” Fox said.
At the competition, individual competitors will make their own airplane with a 55 cm wingspan, weighing 1.4 grams. “Each airplane is launched with a rubber band but can remain in the air for up to and possibly more than 25 minutes,” Fox said. “Time in the air and distance traveled become competitive results.”
Andraka provided more details in a Nov. 28 email:
“F1D is the top internationally recognized class of indoor rubber duration airplanes, and the only planes for which there is a World Championship. The planes, built primarily of balsa wood with extremely thin mylar film covering, span 55cm (almost 2 feet) and weigh a mere 1.4g (0.05 oz). They are powered by a rubber band weighing no more than 0.4g and wound to about 1200 turns. On this power, in a tall indoor (calm) site, the planes will fly for well over 20 minutes. It takes tremendous skill to set up the free-flight airplane to fly a nice, controlled circle for this duration!”
Andraka said the three Composite Squadron cadets started their journey through the Albuquerque Area Home Schooler’s Science Olympiad. Andraka has coached Science Olympiad participants in the flying events since 2016 and coached several nationals-winning teams.
Andraka expects his team to do well in the World Championships as well. “The Slanic site is favored by many, as it is an old salt mine dedicated to indoor flying,” Andraka said. “The ceiling is nearly 200 feet, and the ‘weather’ is consistent. We expect strong teams from Romania and the Ukraine in the Junior division. However, team USA is strong this year and is up to the challenge. Any one of these students are capable of being a World Champion.”
Building and flying the planes is more than just a hobby, Andraka said. “The process of improvement is highly scientific, with meticulous records, hypothesis and testing. This is applicable to many areas of science,” he explained.
Many of Andraka’s students continue to study in scientific fields after graduating high school. Several of his students have pursued mechanical engineering and aviation sciences and one is currently studying forensic science.