Engineering students have a lot of experience building concrete canoes, as we documented back in 2012. Some students at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology have taken things a step further by designing a small-scale concrete airplane that can actually fly (sort of).
“Fly” is a relative term here, since the plane actually just lifted a few inches off the ground before it flipped over. However, it did achieve lift and it did survive the crash.
Students David Haberman, Tyler Pojanowski, and Seth Adams built the plane using specially developed concrete (along with carbon fiber reinforcement) that was originally used to build one of those aforementioned concrete canoes. Still, the plane was both slow and heavy, making its brief, low flight remarkable. The 18-pound plane is only the second concrete airplane to achieve flight, and the only one to survive intact. There was apparently one other concrete airplane, built at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, FL. That plane was destroyed in a crash during its maiden flight.
“There wasn’t much time because once it got air it just went over, it flipped over. I was freaked because I was really close to it and was worried it was going to hit me,” Pojanowski said.
The plane, which sustained some minor damage during the crash, will be displayed at the school’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Production laboratory.