When I first started my Aerospace Engineering degree at Teesside University a couple of years ago I read a blog about a project involving a small aircraft housed somewhere within the university called a Ganagobie. Being young and idealistic I swore to myself that I would make it my mission to find this Ganagobie and involve myself with it. After two years I completed this mission; the Ganagobie was found hiding in the Orion Building and my lecturer, Dr Alex Ellin, had kindly allowed me to become part of the project.

Now if you type Lobet Ganagobie into an internet search engine you will see a series of pictures similar to the one below, which shows the Ganagobie when it was first delivered to the university.

It’s missing the wings on this picture but on first impressions it looks like a plane.

Below is how it looked when I first saw it.

Now I’m no expert but even I can see this plane is in no condition to fly. For starters it’s upside down and in a jig, has no wings or engine and there appears to be a bit of a hole in the fuselage. I’m informed this is all for a valid reason – although suitable for a petite person to fly, someone of a larger height would struggle to fit in the aircraft. Therein lies the main challenge, to extend the fuselage 6 inches. Now if you were thinking you could just chop the front end off, bit of wood, bit of glue, cover and voilà, done, you would be slightly mistaken. There appears to be rules and regulations covering this sort of thing. The extension has to be done such a way that the aircraft will still be deemed fit to fly by the Light Aircraft Association (LAA), for the obvious reason that, if not, a fatal accident could occur.

That was the situation a couple of month ago. This is what the Ganagobie looks like today.

At first glance the appearance may have not changed much but significant progress has been made. The first tasks tackled were those of extending the longerons to accommodate the extra space required and rebuilding Frame 3. The longerons were extended using a scarf joint. Both the original longeron and the extension were cut at a shallow angle and then glued together. The scarf joints on both sides of the aircraft are further supported by longeron doublers, which themselves were completely removed and replaced. Frame 3 needed to be rebuilt as the original was damaged when removing the plywood skin.

With the longerons extended, the frames and bulkheads can be placed into position, ready to be secured when final locations are confirmed. A new frame, frame 5A, is to be placed between frames 5 and 6 (unsurprisingly) to compensate for the extension. The final position of this frame is unknown as the extension will cause the reconfiguration of other components and it may need to be rejigged to avoid interference.

Further tasks include creating a new torque control tube as the original is now 150mm too short. A temporary tube was fitted that ensured the correct placement of bulkhead 4 by allowing the tube to rotate freely. From the new torque control tube the positions of frame 5 and 5A can be finalised. A new cockpit floor and supports need to be formed, the position of the seat needs to be adjusted so that it gives a more comfortable, inclined seating position, new elevator control cables need to be fitted to cater for the extra fuselage length and the lower skin will need to be fitted. All this will hopefully be underway before the summer.

You might think ‘why bother?’ From a student point of view it is an excellent learning experience. Although some of the students on the Aerospace Engineering course have prior physical experience of aircraft, for those who don’t it allows them to gain this experience. It allows a student to apply the theory they have learnt in class by working on a live project, gaining an insight into different aspects such as CAD, project management, structural analysis, quality control, materials and manufacture (this list is by no means exhaustive). From any of these areas ‘mini-projects’ can be formed which can be used for final year individual projects and of course it can also look pretty good to a potential employer on a CV and become a great talking point at an interview.

I realise I have probably crammed quite a lot in to this first post so I intend to try and backtrack a bit with future posts to give a greater overview of what has been achieved so far, as well as updating with the progress we make beyond this point.

(I should just point out that anything posted on this blog is my own view, not that of Teesside University or anyone else associated with the project.)