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Cal Poly professor breaks 3 U.S. records with glider plane

Posted at 12:03 PM, Jun 23, 2020

Cal Poly Aerospace Engineering professor Paulo Iscold broke three national soaring records June 10 with his sailplane.

Pilots Jim Payne and Alan Coombs broke the records flying the plane designed by Iscold.

The records included:

  • Distance in triangle flight (636.9 miles)
  • Speed in 1000 km triangle (88 mph)
  • Distance in free triangle (637.4 miles)

Payne previously set the record for distance in triangle flight 24 years ago in 1996.

The Nixus was transported to Minden, Nevada during optimal weather conditions to attempt to break the records. Minden's air is considered optimal for glider travel.

A sailplane, otherwise known as a glider, flies without engine power. Iscold's plane is named Nixus, meaning "pushing forward" in Latin.

It has flexible 93-foot wings that flex and bend in-flight. The plane also features first-of-its-kind key wing features that are controlled through a fly-by-wire computer system. This type of system uses computers to process the flight control inputs made by the pilot and send corresponding electrical signals to the flight control surface actuators. A separate device gauges the vibration on the wing.

Iscold began working on the sailplane before joining Cal Poly's faculty in 2018 and has since enlisted the help of students in the Akaflieg Club to work on his plane. Iscold hopes students will be able to do work related to the data gathered in-flight.

Iscold and Payne are now aiming to break the record for the longest distance covered by a sailplane. The record is 1,864 miles.