Tears, cheers and applause greeted the inaugural flight of an Otago Polytechnic student-built plane this week.

Otago Polytechnic Engineering boffins, former students and others gathered at the Otago Aero Club on 16 August and were soon on cloud 9 as the moment they had long anticipated came to fruition in a whirr of propellor blades.

The project was the brainchild of the late Stuart Allan, Principal Engineering Lecturer, who had a vision to provide a challenging and engaging means by which students could learn high-level Engineering skills.

Members of Stuart’s family were present at the launch and were visibly moved at they watched the machine roar into the blue sky on a late-winter afternoon.

Stuart’s wife, Janice, was elated with the outcome.

"It’s very emotional today to see his baby flying. It’s incredible."

From 2018 to 2020, Bachelor of Engineering Technology and New Zealand Diploma in Engineering students painstakingly constructed  the Vans RV12 aeroplane.

Registered as ZK OPT (ZK for New Zealand and OPT for Otago Polytechnic), the kitset plane has been purchased by the Otago Aero Club.

The plane, which has a 9m wingspan and detachable wings (so it can be transported on a trailer), has played a starring role at previous Otago Polytechnic Engineering Showcases, which celebrate a range of innovative solutions to real-world challenges.

The project was overseen by a licensed aircraft engineer, an Engineering graduate from Otago Polytechnic, and has also been assessed by Civil Aviation. In addition, the Otago Aero Club has undertaken a series of tests.

Otago Polytechnic graduate Mitch Sim, now a civil engineer with Fulton Hogan, did a lot of the electrical engineering on the plane while he was a student.

"It was a really cool opportunity — something that not many people would get to do. It’s awesome to see a project this big and ambitious come to fruition.”

Otago Aero Club flying instructor Colin Chalmers, who took the plane on its maiden flight, says it will eventually be used to train pilots.

He described its inaugural flight as "awesome".

“It flies beautifully. It’s very agile. The way the aircraft was built and with all the pre-flight checks that were done, it just flies the way it should do."

Otago Polytechnic engineering technician William Early, who picked up the project and was instrumental in helping the students build the plane, was equally happy with the result of many hundreds of hours of effort.

“Stuart’s vision was to have a real-world project that would inspire students from a range of disciplines to learn, to collaborate and work together towards a highly technical outcome.

“What a wonderful moment. To share in this experience while also thinking about Stuart . . . well, it’s both inspiring and humbling.”

See the One News coverage

Read the Otago Daily Times article

Published on 17 Aug 2022

Orderdate: 17 Aug 2022
Expiry: 17 Aug 2024