Young engineers design fix for flats at airports
Weber State University engineering student Mason Winters needed a senior project to complete his requirements.
As a married man, he knew who to ask for ideas: his wife, Angie Johannsen, who is vice president of Redtail Aviation in Price. "So I told him I knew just the thing," she said.
What the Carbon County Airport - or any other airport - needs is some way to get an airplane with a flat tire off the runway or taxiway quickly.
"It can take hours to get someone here to fix it or to fly in the parts. Basically, your runway is closed," she explained. Planes can't take off or land while a crippled plane is on the strip and towing it with a flat could damage some really expensive equipment.
Redtail, which runs light airplanes for flight instruction and scenic tours, does encounter its share of flats at its operations in Price and Moab.
Winters took the idea and ran with it. As a manufacturing engineering technology student with welding emphasis, he generated some ideas ideas of what could be done.
He also had contacts with fellow students at WSU. He recruited five to share in the project. Two of them, Michael Rigby and Josh Critchlow, hail from Price. Others on the team were James Schuh of Layton, Drake Thomson of Clearfield and Amanda Voigt of Riverdale.
Under the guidance of Winters, who knew planes and weights and had talked to mechanics, the team designed and redesigned the concept.
Thomson and Voigt, with backgrounds in design graphics engineering technology, spent the fall semester generating a 3-D model and blueprints for the manufacturing team.
The students also found financial and technical support from local industries. Redtail helped with financing. Intermountain Electronics provided precision laser cutting and bending of the 3/16" and 1/4" metal stock. They also got help from A&F Welding, Bolt & Nut Supply, Aerodine Machine, and EVCO House of Hose.
The device, nicknamed the Cessna Saver, is a jack-dolly that can accommodate aircraft tires up to 30 inches wide on planes weighing as much as 8,400 pounds.
What sets the team's design apart from other methods is that a single person can jack up the aircraft and have it ready for moving in 15 minutes or less. It does this by pushing two large spoons with small-diameter rollers under both ends of the flat tire. When the spoons meet at the center - with a little bit of tire pinched between - the operator can then use the device's lever-operated hydraulic jack to lift the whole side of the aircraft.
The whole assembly is mounted on a platform with four heavy casters. It becomes a substitute for the tire, so the plane can be safely towed to a hangar to await maintenance.
Johannsen said she and her husband are looking for patents, and that Winters is already redesigning the prototype.