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AIAA Foundation Student Design Competition 2015/16

Graduate Team-Aircraft

Large Air Tanker for Wildfire Attack

Request for Proposal

In the past few years, the number of wildfires has been on the rise. Researchers at NASA
Goddards have predicted increases in future wildfire activity in the next 50-100 years as a result
of rising global temperatures and regional drying. Therefore, the need for a purpose built
firefighting aircraft is becoming more apparent.
The majority of the aircraft currently in service for firefighting purposes are modified airframes
of civil or military aircraft. Even some of the newest aircraft are based on the Dash 8 and the
Airtractor series of aircraft. Canadair has two purpose-built SuperScoopers that can refill with
a low passes over large bodies of water, but both of these Canadair aircraft are limited to less
than 1,700 gallons of water in a single dispersal. Unfortunately, these two aircraft are not
common in the United States, because critics claim that fire prone states do not have readily
available bodies of water.
The 747 Supertanker, which began operations in 2009, was the largest firefighting airplane. The
initial design of the modification allowed solely for water dispensing. During the late term
conversion to handle and disperse fire retardant, Evergreen and the FAA found that the increased
density of the fire retardant over the original design load for water would subject the airframe to
additional stress not anticipated during the development; this would reduce the service lift of the
airframe. Further, the Very Large Air Tankers have been very expensive to operate, and
consensus is that, to date, the effectiveness has not been worth the investment. In 2012, the USFS
awarded exclusive use contracts for Next Generation Air Tanker vehicles based on the BAE146 airframe.
The Forest Service uses air bases all over the United States to conduct operations. Climate and
weather data are used to predict the likelihood of a fire in a region, and aircraft are prepositioned.
As a result, range to the fire with a water and / or retardant payload is typically not over 200 nm.
The aircraft must have the ability to dispatch quickly to the entire continental United States. For
the purpose of this study, this corresponds to having the aircraft cover a ferry distance of 2500
Designing a purpose-built large size firefighting aircraft would allow the USFS the ability to
fight wildfires efficiently as the frequency of these wildfires increases. This aircraft should have
the ability to function as a water and fire retardant dispersing aircraft while maintaining a quick
turn-around time.
The primary purpose of the large air tanker (LAT) is to perform initial attack and extended fire
support. Initial attack is defined as the first day of the fire, and size less than 300 acres.
Extended fire support is the next phase of the fire before the fire spreads out of control to become
a large wildfire. Speed from initiation of the mission to the drop zone is critical, but also limited
by FAA flight rules below 10,000 ft. This means that the time of ground operations of the
vehicle such as checklist, startup, warm-up, taxi and takeoff should all be minimized. A lead
plane will typically lead the LAT to the drop zone, or the LAT will drop on its own along a
smoke line. The drop speed must be below 150 kt or the retardant shears and the drop accuracy
is reduced. Dropping from higher than 300 ft also results in poor retardant coverage.

The overall goal of the large air tanker is to build an effective fire line or firebreak quickly to
contain the spread of the fire. The fire line will assist the ground team by providing a gap
between the active fire and other combustible material. Because of the goal to build this fire line
quickly, the objectives for the design should balance minimizing time to establish a fire line with
minimizing total ownership cost.
Wildfire fighting has been extremely dangerous over the past decades. In looking to the future,
consider whether the aircraft design can be piloted, unpiloted, or capable of both provided
adequate justification given.
Basic Requirements/Constraints
1) Crew 2 pilots
2) Payload 5,000 gallons (retardant density assumed to be 9 lb/gal)
3) Performance
a) Operational Radius 200 nm (from base to fire area) with three retardant drops per sortie.
Assume one full turn between equal weight drops.
b) 2,500 nm ferry range
c) Balanced Field Length of 5,000 ft; assume +35F standard atmosphere at an altitude of
5,000 ft above mean sea-level
d) Stall speed of 90 kts
e) Drop requirements
i) Drop speed below 150 kts
ii) Drop altitude below 300 ft
4) Dash speed greater than 300 kts on return trip for reload.
5) Retardant reload of 10 minutes or less with engines on
6) Turbine engine (turbofan or turboprop); off-the-shelf engine is preferred
7) FAA certification for transport aircraft (Part 25) Special attention to fatigue.
Design objectives:

Minimize time to establish a fire line, assuming four (4) sorties can establish this fire line.
Containing fires during the initial attack will reduce the number of uncontrolled large
Minimize cost of ownership to justify the acquisition of the greater capability vs. refitting
an old airframe.

Tradeoffs of interest:

Typical tradeoffs of aircraft configuration, tail layout, and water / flame retardant tank
arrangement are expected. Additionally, tradeoffs of wing area and geometry, and
installed thrust or power are expected to demonstrate the best selection of these values;
these tradeoffs are often associated with carpet plots.
The proposers should also consider whether the aircraft should be piloted, unpiloted or
optionally piloted.
Proposers should clearly present technology tradeoffs when comparing technology
options for the purpose-built large air tanker for wildfire attack.


No specific turbofan, turboprop or propeller data is provided. At a minimum, proposers should

use the representative powerplants like those presented in Appendix E of Raymer, D., Aircraft
Design: A Conceptual Approach, 5th edition, AIAA Education Series, Reston, VA, 2012 or
Appendix J of Nicolai, L. and Carichner, G., Fundamentals of Aircraft and Airship Design:
Volume I Aircraft Design, AIAA Education Series, Reston, VA, 2010 (or similar textbook
sources), and scale the representative engine appropriately to reflect the engine size and
technology employed on the proposed concept. The proposing team could then match the
resulting scaled engine description to an available engine.
Entry into Service and Design Lifetime
The aircraft shall enter into service in 2022. It shall have a design lifetime of no less than 20
Other Design Considerations:
An air tanker for wildfire attack may present airframe structural design challenges peculiar to
this type of mission. Any proposed design must address these challenges and consider how these
challenges might impact the overall aircraft concept.
Supporting the goal of quickly establishing a fire line, the aircraft design should consider the
sensing and actuation requirements needed to achieve drop precision adequate to build a fire line
of retardant.
In addition to dispersing water and / or retardant, the aircraft should carry equipment (sensors,
communications equipment, etc.) that provides a forward observer function for other firefighting
aircraft in the area. By providing fire condition reports and information during approach to the
fire zone, during the drop, and after the drop, this observer function can provide time critical fire
situation awareness to the incident commander.
National Study of Tactical Aerial Resource Management to Support Initial Attack and Large Fire
Suppression. USDA Forest Service, October 1998
Wildland Fire Management Aerial Application Study, Fire Program Solutions, Final Report
October 2005
Large Airtanker Modernization Strategy, USDA Forest Service, February 2012

Rules and Guidelines

I. General Rules
1. All undergraduate AIAA branches or at-large Student Members are eligible and encouraged to
2. Teams will be groups of not more than ten AIAA or or at-large Student Members per entry.
3. The report in Adobe PDF format must be submitted online to AIAA Student Programs. Total
size of the file(s) cannot exceed 60 MB, which must also fit on 50 pages when printed. The file
title should include the team name and university. A Signature page must be included in the
report and indicate all participants, including faculty and project advisors, along with their
AIAA member numbers. Designs that are submitted must be the work of the students, but
guidance may come from the Faculty/Project Advisor and should be accurately acknowledged.
4. Design projects that are used as part of an organized classroom requirement are eligible and
encouraged for competition.
5. More than one design may be submitted from students at any one school.
6. If a design group withdraws their project from the competition, the team chairman must notify
AIAA Headquarters immediately!
7. The prizes shall be: First place-$500; Second place-$250; Third place-$125 (US dollars).
Certificates will be presented to the winning design teams for display at their university and a
certificate will also be presented to each team member and the faculty/project advisor.
II. Copyright
All submissions to the competition shall be the original work of the team members.
Any submission that does not contain a copyright notice shall become the property of AIAA. A
team desiring to maintain copyright ownership may so indicate on the signature page but
nevertheless, by submitting a proposal, grants an irrevocable license to AIAA to copy, display,
publish, and distribute the work and to use it for all of AIAAs current and future print and
electronic uses (e.g. Copyright 20__ by _____. Published by the American Institute of
Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc., with permission.).

Any submission purporting to limit or deny AIAA licensure (or copyright) will not be eligible
for prizes.
III. Schedule & Activity Sequences
Significant activities, dates, and addresses for submission of proposal and related materials are as
A. Letter of Intent March 14, 2016
B. Receipt of Proposal May 16, 2016
C. Winners Announced-August 2016
IV. Proposal Requirements
The technical proposal is the most important criterion in the award of a contract. It should be
specific and complete. While it is realized that all of the technical factors cannot be included in
advance, the following should be included and keyed accordingly:
1. Demonstrate a thorough understanding of the Request for Proposal (RFP) requirements.
2. Describe the proposed technical approaches to comply with each of the requirements
specified in the RFP, including phasing of tasks. Legibility, clarity, and completeness of the
technical approach are primary factors in evaluation of the proposals.
3. Particular emphasis should be directed at identification of critical, technical problem areas.
Descriptions, sketches, drawings, systems analysis, method of attack, and discussions of new
techniques should be presented in sufficient detail to permit engineering evaluation of the
proposal. Exceptions to proposed technical requirements should be identified and explained.
4. Include tradeoff studies performed to arrive at the final design.
5. Provide a description of automated design tools used to develop the design.
V. Basis for Judging
1. Technical Content (35 points)
This concerns the correctness of theory, validity of reasoning used, apparent understanding
and grasp of the subject, etc. Are all major factors considered and a reasonably accurate
evaluation of these factors presented?

2. Organization and Presentation (20 points)

The description of the design as an instrument of communication is a strong factor on
judging. Organization of written design, clarity, and inclusion of pertinent information are
major factors.
3. Originality (20 points)
The design proposal should avoid standard textbook information, and should show
independence of thinking or a fresh approach to the project. Does the method and treatment
of the problem show imagination? Does the approach show an adaptation or creation of
automated design tools?
4. Practical Application and Feasibility (25 points)
The proposal should present conclusions or recommendations that are feasible and
practical, and not merely lead the evaluators into further difficult or insolvable problems.