SAB Gains $53,000 Grant for Composite Glider Project


Student Aircraft Builders are building a manned airplane inside a hangar at Williard Airport.
Student Aircraft Builders are building a manned airplane inside a hangar at Williard Airport.

The University of Illinois Student Sustainability Committee has awarded almost $53,000 to Student Aircraft Builders, a multi-departmental group of undergraduates who are building a composite, alternative energy glider.

“The grant is a tremendous opportunity for Student Aircraft Builders,” said SAB President Andrew Putch, an Aerospace Engineering (AE) student. “It will allow us to continue providing a valuable learning experience for all students on campus interested in aviation. We want to show the world what students are really capable of and this grant is a big leap in that direction.”

“With the additional funding, we will be able to support even more students and their continued ideas,” Putch continued. “We hope to grow from our current 50 members well into the triple digits.”

Members of Student Aircraft Builders
Members of Student Aircraft Builders
SAB teaches students from all across campus to work as a team in successfully constructing a flyable airplane. Working on projects since January 2013 in a hangar at Willard Airport, SAB members have gained resources and experience and are ready to move forward with the group’s goal: fostering advancements in aviation by expanding student experience in sustainable energy technology and principles.

SAB is in the process of designing a quarter-scale, composite, alternative energy glider. The project is intended to teach students skills to design a plane as well as the basics for composite airframe construction. This is important because composite airframes, like the one found on Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, are at the forefront of the aerospace industry.

With knowledge of composite aircraft construction, SAB plans to build a Burt Rutan Long EZ.  Aerospace engineer Burt Rutan is famous for his groundbreaking airplane designs. The Long EZ was specifically designed for fuel-efficient long-range flight by using composites and a canard in the airplane.

“The current plan is to expand past just working with sheet metal into composite airframe construction,” said Erik Lopez, previous SAB President and also an AE student. “This will allow us to not just follow our industry but aid in surpassing it. Most of all, this (sustainability) grant plays perfectly into our long-term plan of eventually being able to design and build our very own airplane.”

Members of SAB
Members of SAB
In addition to this grant, SAB has been supported by

  • AE at Illinois
  • The University of Illinois Institute of Aviation
  • Mechanical Science and Engineering at Illinois
  • Engineering Council
  • Design Council
  • University of Illinois Student Organization Resource Fee
  • Zenith Aircraft Company
  • Northrop Grumman
  • Brewer Science
  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (Educational Outreach Grant)
  • Private Donors