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Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

It Flies! Merlin Flight Competition

Our Merlin flight simulation laboratory provides aerospace students with a unique opportunity to showcase their designs through It Flies! USA and UK competitions. The  competitions are held at the University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio, USA, in April and Swansea, Wales, UK, in June. Air Force lieutenant colonels, majors and generals from the Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP) "fly" the student-designed simulations and contribute significantly to the students' aircraft design knowledge-base. Click here for more information about our Merlin Flight Simulator Lab.

It Flies! USA 2020

The 2020 USA It Flies! competition will be on Saturday, April 4, 2020, at the University of Dayton.

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It Flies! USA 2019

The 2019 IT Flies competition on Saturday, April 6, 2019, had 8 teams: four from the University of Dayton, one from the University of Manchester, two from the University of South Wales and one from the University of Cincinnati.

It Flies USA 2019 Competition Teams with Flight Simulator

First place was shared between the three following teams:

  • Ollie Banks, University of South Wales (Turbo prop Flying Boat)
  • Nikita Dunaev and Soma Santa, University of Manchester (Single engine lifting body general aviation airplane)
  • Andrew Killian and Ryan Simpkins, University of Dayton (A WWI era optimized airplane)

Second place was won by Jielong Cai (Jacky), University of Dayton (General Aviation observation airplane).

According to Dr. Sid Gunasekaran, flight simulation lab director, "The test pilots were impressed with the quality of the airplanes simulated. They mentioned that the competition went from determining whether or not an airplane could take off from the ground to whether or not the handling qualities are simulated to satisfy the required mission."

It Flies! UK 2019

Merlin Flight Simulation Group Aircraft Design And Handling Competition 2019

by Marion Neal, British Exporters News, | Monday 17 June 2019

Held at The University of Manchester on Thursday 6 April, the judges’ comment was that it was the best IT FLIES competition yet. Each entry flew really well, and it was decided that they all deserved a prize. Never has the standard been so high — a real credit to the university students involved and their enthusiasm for anything aero!

Chief Flying Judge, Dave Southwood from ETPS, commented: This year, all of the models entered flew very successfully at the first attempt, with no refinement required by Merlin. The overall best model was one of the very best that I have ever flown in all the years that I have been a judge for IT FLIES. It was very heartening for all of the judges to see the enthusiasm, knowledge and attitude of all of the student teams. The format of the competition has developed over the years and we are confident that it gives the best possible learning opportunities for the students as well as being fun for them and for the judges!

  • The winning team is from Manchester, who designed a three lifting surface, twin engine light jet for 5 passengers, and a range of 1500nm, targeted at developing nations with mountainous/rough terrain and short runways.
  • Second was HvA, Amsterdam.
  • Third was Glyndwr University, Wrexham.
  • Most innovative design went to Swansea University with their extreme altitude mountain rescue rotorcraft.
  • Best project presentation went to The University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio, USA, for their solar powered glider.

Our flying judges were Dave Southwood and Gordon McClymont, and our presentation judge, Dr. David Philpott. Our many thanks to them and to the staff and students at The University of Manchester who helped enormously. Our sponsors this year were the Royal Aeronautical Society's Flight Simulation Group, and The Aviation Historian magazine. Very many thanks to them both for supporting us again!

It Flies! USA 2018

This spring, Will Cammack, mechanical and aerospace engineering major from the University of Dayton, USA, won first prize for his simulation of a KC-135 stratotanker during the It Flies! USA competition. 

Cammack's next stop is Manchester, UK, where his design will compete at the  June 8 It Flies! UK event. Director of the Merlin Flight Simulator Lab, Dr. Aaron Altman, will also be at the event. In the UK, Cammack's stratotanker design will challenge entries from the universities of Manchester, Swansea, Amsterdam, University of South Wales, Teesside and Dayton. Good Luck, Will!

First Prize - Will Cammack, University of Dayton

Cammack received $500 from Merlin Products, a student membership to The Royal Aeronautical Society and  coins from SETP for his simulation of a KC-135 stratotanker.


Prize for The Most Innovative Design
$200 and copies of The Aviation Historian went to Oliver Williams, Jason Hitchman and Matthew Uren from The University of Manchester, UK, for their simulation of ‘Dragonfly’ a flying car that drives and flies.
Prize for the Best Project Presentation
The book, Test Flying at Old Wright Field and copies of The Aviation Historian went to James Shipway, Bronwen Hadden and Dragos Sovar from The University of South Wales for their Blended Wing Body cargo aircraft based on the Airbus A320.

IT Flies! UK 2018

Nine teams entered It Flies UK 2018. They came from the University of Dayton, University of South Wales, University of Manchester, Swansea University and Amsterdam University. Dave Southwood and Gordon McClymont from the Empire Test Pilots School and Dr. David Philpott, aerodynamicist, judged the event at the University of Manchester. Click here to read more from the Aerospace UK magazine.

First Place:

  • Business jet/flying boat by Kristian Groot, Amsterdam University
  • Blended wing aircraft with a payload of 20,000kg by Clayton Humphreys-Jennings, University of South Wales

Best Project Presentation:

  • First: Next generation strike aircraft designed to replace the Harrier by James Ellis, University of Manchester
  • Second: Twin engine turboprop aircraft by Nikita Dunaev and Soma Peter Santa, University of Manchester

Most Innovative Design:

  • First: Antycip Simulation UK by James Ellis, University of Manchester
  • Second: Stratospheric aerosol geo-engineering aircraft by Jasper Heeren, Amsterdam University

It Flies! USA 2017

The Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP) judged the event and all entries were flown and assessed on the MP521 Engineering Flight Simulator at the University of Dayton.

First: The University of Manchester, Yufei Jin, Ana Gea Espinos and Thomas Moissinac. Two-person, short-range VTOL aircraft with electrical propulsion system.
Second: The University of Dayton, Ryan Vince. Boeing 757-200.
Third: The University of Dayton, Hunter Johnston, Jacob Korczyk and Mark Susong. Crop duster.

Prizes for the Most Innovative Design: The University of Manchester, Charles-Antoine Lassonery, Kavin Kumar and Seiya Sato. Hybrid aircraft with better performance and efficiency compared to B757 and A321neo.

Prizes for the Best Project Presentation: 
First: The University of Manchester VTOL aircraft.
Second: The University of Manchester Hybrid aircraft.
Third: The University of Dayton, Tim Gerham, Acrobatic aircraft.

Click here to read the article in the August 2017 issue of the Aero Society's Aerospace Magazine.

It Flies! UK 2017

This event was held at the University of Manchester, UK.

  • First: The Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Sam Le Poole, ATLAS – unmanned blended wing body cargo freighter
  • Second: The Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Mike Hartman, E-SPARC, an electrically sustainably propelled aerobatic racing aircraft.
  • Third: The University of Manchester, Ugne Kiudulaite and Ruta Marcinkeviciute. Design: Light, closed-wing, single-engine aircraft design

Most Innovative Design

  • The Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Mike Hartman. Design: E-SPARC, an electrically sustainable, propelled aerobatic racing aircraft

Best Project Presentation

  • The University of Dayton, Hunter Johnston and Jacob Korczyk for their crop duster design

Click here to read the article in the October 2017 issue of the Aero Society's Aerospace Magazine.


Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Dr. Jamie Ervin, Department Chair

Kettering Laboratories
300 College Park
Dayton, Ohio 45469 - 0238