Cessna Saver

Redtail Aviation operates two aircraft runways in Moab and Price and when an aircraft blows a tire on the runway, it can seriously cripple operations.

“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.”

The nearness of a mechanic and the required equipment often makes it difficult for the aircraft to be moved or fixed. This often results in the airport operations being delayed for hours.

“Bottom line, your runway is closed. Planes cannot land or take off,” Johannsen said. “You need the damaged aircraft off the runway ASAP.”

Six Weber State University manufacturing and design engineering technology students decided to resolve this problem in conjunction with their senior project. Their objective was to help smaller and single-runway airfields run more smoothly.

Calling themselves “Team Cessna Saver,” the group has worked tirelessly over the last two semesters designing and building a universal jack-dolly device that can support tires up to 30 inches wide and planes weighing as much as 8,400 pounds. According to their research, no such product currently exists on the market.

Weighing approximately 150 pounds, this steel device utilizes hydraulics to increase and contract allowing it to support a defective tire. The defective wheel and tire are then elevated, positioning the plane’s weight onto the jack-dolly device’s frame and four wheels. The plane can then be wheeled off the runway where it can be repaired, and flight landings and takeoffs can resume.

“Team Cessna” members estimate the entire procedure takes less than 15 minutes, which is considerably less than the current time allotted for similar occurrences. 

Team captain Mason Winters, a manufacturing engineering technology student with a welding emphasis, directed the project. Winters also happens to be Johannsen’s husband. 

“It’s Mason’s baby,” said Josh Critchlow, a manufacturing engineering technology student who served 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 and has talked to mechanics.”

Winters also shuttles the device to Price, Utah each weekend, experimenting with it on planes to help determine the best configuration for the device. 

Along with Winters and Critchlow, the team consists of Michael Rigby, Price, Utah,and James Schuh, Layton, Utah who are currently earning their degrees in manufacturing engineering technology. Drake Thompson, Clearfield, Utah, and Amanda Voigt, Riverdale, Utah contributed as well. They graduated in April with design graphic and engineering technology degrees. 

Also Thompson and Voigt were in charge of designing the device on the computer, and creating a 3-D model which acted as a blueprint for manufacturing. Both students spent around fifteen hours a week on the project. The workload switched from design to manufacturing as the project progressed. 

A preliminary test in February had the team tweaking how the device slipped under the damaged tire. They also increased the amount of weight the dolly could support. 

The project has taught the students the importance of teamwork and collaboration. They’ve also learned how to keep a project within a tight budget, $1,500 in this case. 

“One of the biggest parts was the hydraulics attachments, said Critchlow. 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.” 

Funding for the project was provided primarily by Redtail Aviation. Materials such as steel, resources and labor were also provided by A&F Welding, Aerodine Machine, Bolt & Nut Supply, EVCO House of Hose and Intermountain Electronics.