Team CyFly advances in global Airbus competition as sole U.S. team


Courtesy of Team CyFly

Team CyFly is one of 50 teams in the world that remain in the Airbus ‘Fly Your Ideas’ competition. 

Mitchell Lafrance

A group of Iowa State students have made it past the first round of the Airbus Fly Your Ideas competition, making the team one of 50 remaining in the world and the only team still competing in the United States. 

The Fly Your Ideas competition is a chance for students in various educational disciplines to come up with solutions to common problems in the aviation industry. 

There are five main challenges to propose ideas for, including business models, flight operations, passenger experience, design engineering and manufacturing. 

Team CyFly, composed of students who are studying aerospace engineering, decided to tackle the passenger experience challenge. The group proposed an idea that would substantially decrease the boarding and disembarking time for passenger aircraft. 

“The passenger experience challenge requires an idea on how to reduce time boarding and disembarking while increasing the capacity for luggage,” Koki Tomoeda, team leader for the project, said.

Other members of the team include Tho Ton, senior in aerospace engineering, and Lechen Wang, junior in aerospace engineering. 

The rules for the competition don’t specify whether the fuselage can be modified, but the team wanted to be able to put this idea into motion with existing aircraft, therefore negating the need for an overhaul of an airline’s fleet. 

“Every seat will fold up like a theater seat,” Jack Stanton, junior in aerospace engineering and member of the team, said. “It’s a pretty simple idea, and it just folds up [when boarding] and folds down [when flying]. The aisle seat will also be able to rotate in to allow for double the aisle space when boarding and disembarking.”

With more than 300 teams from around the world submitting projects for evaluation in the first round, only 50 teams were selected to move on to the next round. Team CyFly was selected, and as such, is the only team from the United States still in the competition. 

“We were definitely surprised to see that we were the only U.S. team left,” Stanton said. 

Some of the countries represented in the competition include Brazil, Australia, Nigeria, the United Kingdom, China and Japan. 

If the team makes it to the third round, it will be one of five teams selected to be flown out to France in May, which is where Airbus is based. 

Airbus has a facility called the ProtoSpace in Toulouse, France, which is where the top five teams will be given the opportunity to work with Airbus engineers to develop their prototype in a detailed manner. 

The top prize for the competition also includes a purse of more than $32,000, and runners-up will receive more than $16,000. 

The motivation for the team members to participate in the project stems from an interest in innovation. 

“I worked at an innovation lab this past summer, so I’m pretty interested in the whole emerging technologies field,” Stanton said. 

The premise of the Airbus project is fairly vague, Tomoeda said, but also very specific at the same time. 

“The biggest challenge for the project itself has been trying to innovate inside the space of the fuselage since it’s so small,” Stanton said. “They want us to increase the luggage space of the airplane, but you’ve got almost no space to work with, so it’s been an interesting task.”

Another challenge has been trying to design a solution that still meets Federal Aviation Administration regulations and other safety requirements. 

“The airline seats have to be able to withstand about nine Gs, which is a crazy amount of force,” Stanton said. “When you add moving parts, like what we’re doing, it makes those tasks a little harder to achieve.”

The team submitted its modified project design for Round 2 evaluation earlier Monday, and is hopeful that it will be selected for Round 3 and a trip to France.