Frustration of the third dimension

Posted on: 10th Aug 2009

In an ideal world, we’d see the results of each modification we do to the race machine. We’d have the pleasure of see an idea come off the drawing board; go into production; onto the aircraft; see more speed on the ASI (Air Speed Indicator); enjoy a better result on the track. No such luck...air racing is not so simple! First, time does not allow us the luxury of doing one modification at a time.. proceed with a benefit, reject a dud. Second, the ASI’s in these aircraft are notoriously inaccurate, especially when you are trying to see a tiny change. Third, it’s almost impossible to be blessed with the same or even similar atmospheric conditions for comparison testing... if you wait for the calm, you’ll wait forever so you find yourself airborne in very different conditions even though it’s the same day. Lastly, having a three dimensional ‘test track’ (i.e. the vast expanse of the sky) we simply cannot simulate a run and be sure of the result. So, yes, it is very frustrating to have spent the last two months planning and then executing a program of several modifications / changes and to be uncertain of the results. Most of what we’ve done involves aerodynamics where the science dictates there will be a benefit. Actually, it’s remarkable how the ‘metres/second maths’ shows how a small speed increase can have a significant result on the track...but wouldn’t it be great to positively see those metres per second! Our biggest recent disappointment has been to delay the modification which has the most potential. It would not be wise to elaborate here so all I’ll say is that many of the ‘minor’ modifications are easy to implement as they do not involve the main structure of the machine. When a modification involves the structure (e.g. wing spars etc) it becomes ‘major’ and therefore requires a lot more stress calculations, analysis and static tests to be certain of the safety issues. We’ll just have to be patient and wait a little longer! Meanwhile, I know other teams have been hard at it too. There’s always a good deal of secrecy surrounding each team’s activities so I’m not certain what they’re up to....we just have to hope no-one’s had more success than we may have had! After two more days of testing the MXS will depart for Budapest with ‘Hux’ at the controls. There’s not much more we can do but wait and see what happens on the track when we get there.