“Most of the aircraft we see with blown out tires are the smaller Cessnas that do a lot of training,” said Angie Johannsen, vice president of Redtail Aviation. “Those planes are easy to move around when the tires are OK but when there are problems you risk damaging the aircraft wheel. Anytime an aircraft part is involved, you can count on it being very expensive to fix. So just tugging the plane off the runway is not an option.”
Depending on the proximity of a mechanic and the necessary equipment, other flights and airport operations can be disrupted for hours, until the aircraft can be fixed and moved.
“Bottom line, your runway is closed. Planes cannot land or take off,” Johannsen said. “You need the damaged aircraft off the runway ASAP.”
Enter a team of six Weber State University manufacturing and design engineering technology students, who are completing a senior project that will help smaller and single-runway airfields run more smoothly.
Known as “Team Cessna Saver,” the group has spent the last two semesters designing and building a universal jack-dolly device that can accommodate tires up to 30 inches wide and planes weighing as much as 8,400 pounds. Based on their research, no such product currently exists on the market.
The device, which weighs approximately 150 pounds, is made of steel. Hydraulics allow it to expand and contract to cradle a defective tire. The wheel with the bad tire is then lifted, placing the plane’s weight on four wheels attached to the frame of the jack-dolly device. Once engaged, planes can be rolled off the runway for actual repair, allowing flight operations to resume.
Team members estimate the process typically takes less than 15 minutes, a far cry from the current response time.
Mason Winters, a manufacturing engineering technology student with a welding emphasis, serves as team captain. His peers credit the Vernal, Utah, native and current Price resident with spearheading the project. Winters also happens to be Johannsen’s husband.
“It’s Mason’s baby,” said Josh Critchlow, a fellow manufacturing engineering technology student who hails from Price and serves as the team’s treasurer. “He generated the idea, he’s been very supportive – he makes every one of us work harder for it. He’s done it all. He knows the weights of the planes, he knows the resources, he has talked to mechanics.”
Winters also transports the device to Price each weekend, testing it out on planes to help fine-tune the concept.
Team Cessna Saver, (from left to right) James Schuh, Michael Rigby, Josh Critchlow,
Drake Thomson, Mason Winters and Amanda Voigt.
Thomson and Voigt spent much of the fall semester involved in designing the device on computers, creating a 3-D model and drawings that were the blueprint for the manufacturing side of the team. The students estimate they each put in 15 hours a week on the project, with the workload shifting from design to manufacturing as the project advanced.
After a preliminary test in February, the team returned to the drawing board to make some changes to improve the ease with which the device slips under a damaged tire, and increase the amount of weight the dolly can hold.
The project has taught the students the importance of teamwork and collaboration. They’ve also learned about keeping a project within a tight budget – $1,500 in this case.“One of the biggest parts was the hydraulics attachments. We had something come back the wrong size, and we knew we didn’t have the money to get it re-machined. We had to problem-solve a way to get it to work,” Critchlow said.
Redtail Aviation has provided much of the funding for the project. Other sponsors, who have donated materials, including the steel, resources and labor, include A&F Welding, Aerodine Machine, Bolt & Nut Supply, EVCO House of Hose and Intermountain Electronics.
The team says their advisor, assistant design graphics engineering technology professor Glen West, has been a huge resource throughout the project.
Schuh, whose future includes joining the U.S. Air Force after graduation, was surprised by all the documentation and paperwork associated with each step in the project, from costs, to set-ups, to details of the operations for every little part they had to manufacture.
Once completed, the students will deliver two jack-dolly devices for Redtail Aviation, one each at the Price and Moab fields. Winters and Johannsen plan to explore the commercial possibilities for the device.
“When we go to job interviews, we can tell them we were given a problem. From the design stage to the build stage, we stuck with the project. We did research and development on it and we improved it. We’re doing our engineering job from start to finish,” Critchlow said. “It’s the first real-world application of what we’ve been learning.”
- Drake Thomson, design engineering technology student
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Glen West, design engineering technology assistant professor, senior project faculty advisor
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- John Kowalewski, director of Media Relations
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