The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Foundation has announced the winners of a Team Aircraft Design Competition open to undergraduate AIAA branches or at-large Student Members. The task was to design from the ground up a purpose-built large air tanker.
Specifications for the aircraft included 4,000 to 8,000 gallon retardant capacity, 2,000 to 3,000 nm ferry range, it would use existing available engines, and have a dash speed of 300 to 400 knots. Other criteria included a drop speed of 125 to 150 knots and takeoff from a Balanced Field Length of 5,000 to 8,000 ft. with an assumption of +35°F standard atmosphere at an altitude of 5,000 ft. above mean sea-level.
The design teams awarded first, second, and third places all chose 8,000-gallon gravity-powered retardant tanks. The estimated prices of the aircraft are based on a manufacturing run of dozens of each aircraft. The teams’ complete proposals are at the links below.
The “Fireflighter” designed by a team from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore took first place. (See image above). It is powered by four turboprop engines and has a dash speed of 410 knots. The students estimate it would cost $75 million.
Team Njord, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign designed the “Valkyrie,” powered by two jet engines. Its dash speed is 300 knots and would use two removable RADS-XXL retardant tanks, enabling it to carry 20,000 pounds of cargo at the aircraft’s ferry range of 3,000 nm. It would sell for approximately $186 million.
The Albatross team, also from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, designed the “Firehawk” powered by two jet engines. It would have a dash speed of 380 knots and sell for about $91 million.