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Glider Improvement Report

Kerrington A. Richards
Elise P. Buckingham Charter Magnet High School, Vacaville, CA, 95687

The following addresses how to improve the flight of a Balsa Airplane. It shows the
amount of time and work the process takes. It also shows how even if you put in a lot of
work, you might not always expect the results you end up with.

C​L, ​α = freestream lift coefficient
s = wingspan (m)
L = lift (N)
ν = kinematic viscosity (m​2​/s)
ρ = freestream density (kg/​m3​​ )
Re = Reynolds number
S​ref = wing area (m​2​)
c = chord length (m)
d = distance (m)t = time (s)
C​L = Coefficient of Lift
V = average freestream velocity (m/s)

I. Introduction
The main purpose of this project was to discover an airfoil design that would improve flight time of a Balsa
Airplane by around 20%. We had to distinguish between different airfoils and use what we thought was the best one.
This project was much more unique than any others we've had because we got to get up and throw our airplanes
using our own strength and technique and that had a big impact on our data. The project took very long to find all
the data, but I learned many new things and ways of measuring.

II. Procedure
We by researching airfoils that would increase flight time by
20% and I started mine on ​ and went through and
tested many airfoils. The airfoil I decided on was the NACA 0006. I
then went onto XFoil and started plugging in different chambers
sizes and chamber positionings and listed results out on a data table.
Throughout the entire process, I used alpha 0 to stay consistent
through my entire data. I ended up looking through my data table
and choosing the one with the biggest lift to drag ratio, NACA 5406.
After we finished choosing what we thought was the best airfoil, we
had to write up a report explaining why.
A couple weeks passed by after that because we were waiting for
the Balsa Airplanes to arrival and I had almost completely forgot
about everything we did. When they finally did arrive, each of us
built one and got the measurements. We went outside to test fly the
Balsa wood airplanes and recorded flight time. With the gathered information, we were responsible for creating the
airfoil we decided on in September on Onshape. I went back the the essay we wrote to figure out what airfoil I
choose and found that I
made a mistake. I put that
NACA 5405 was the best,
but had a data chart of
NACA 0006. So, I decided
to try out that airfoil
thickness and went through
the same listing process as
the other one. By doing this,
I found out that it had a high
lift to drag ratio, a lower
drag coefficient, and a
higher lift coefficient so I
switched over to it.
On Onshape, we tried
manually making our airfoil point by point from a list of 100+ points, but that
quickly became tedious and
annoying. We were eventually
told about a program that did it for us and that made things a lot
simpler. My first wing design had a insert feature and went into the
other wing. This design was flawed because of the print time, the
weight, and the stability. The next design had a sleeve feature that
slide on the the wing. This design was much more efficient because
the print time was low and it was much simpler to apply.
The wings were printed in small chunks of 6 and we had to use
paper to outline the exact shape of the airfoil. I had to wait about an
hour into the period to start mine because there wasn’t enough planes
for everyone. When it was my turn, I
used construction paper to wrap my
wings because I thought it would be the most durable and not tear on contact with
the ground or in the wind. I started test flying my
plane without timing it just to get a feel and it
was looking pretty nice. On the last throw before
I was going to time it, it nose dive into the
ground and the wings snapped in half. Getting no
data, I remade my wings using normal
paper the next flight day and it feel as
confident this time. The ground was
wet this time and after every throw the
wings got wetter and wetter and eventually started disintegrating. I did,
however, get some flight times. With all data gathered, we started the report and

III. Calculations
Original Average Flight Time
(t​1 +​ t​2 +t​
​ 3​) / 3 = t​avg
(1.4s + 1.5s + 1.7s) / 3 = 1.53 s
Original Average Flight Distance
(d​1 ​+ d​2 ​+d​3​) / 3 = d​avg
(8.74 m + 9.22 m + 8.56m) / 3 = 8.84 m
Original Average Velocity
V = d​avg ​/ t​avg
5.78 m/s = 8.84 m / 1.53 s
Final Average Flight Time
(t​1 ​+ t​2 ​+t​3​) / 3 = t​avg
(1.7s + 1.6s + 1.8s) / 3 = 1.7s
Reynolds Number
Re = V * c / ​ν
15658 = (5.78m/s x 0.0635 m) / ? m​2​/s
Flat Wing Lift
C​L​ * ½ * V​2​ * S​ref​ * ρ = L
0.1554 * ½ * (5.7647 m/s)​2​ * 0.0274 m​2​ * 1.225 kg/m​3​ = 0.0867 N
Stabilizer Lift
C​L​ * ½ * V​2​ * S​ref​ * ρ = L
0.1554 * ½ * (5.7647 m/s)​2​ * 0.0061 m​2​ * 1.225 kg/m​3​ = 0.0193 N

IV. Results
By the end of my test flights and calculations, I found out that I got close to no improvement. The goal was to hit
a 20% increase, but I only achieved an 11% increase. Things that I could’ve changed to improve flight time would
be doing more research on the airfoil, not restricting myself to the same thickness, better wing paper outlining job,
and better throwing methods. Things that would’ve generally been better to increase flight time would be nicer
weather and a dry ground.

V. Conclusion
In conclusion, this was a long and difficult project, but it was a good experience. I learned things that will
advance me further into a career in engineering. I didn’t quite hit the goal, but people learn from their mistakes and I
will definitely learn from this and attempt to improve.