Maltese Falcon


The "Maltese Falcon" was designed by the 2002 OSU Black team to compete in the 2001/2002 AIAA/Cessna/ONR Design/Build/Fly contest, held in Wichita, KS in April of 2002.  Aircraft in the competition were designed to complete a sequence of position, passenger delivery, and return missions.  The "passengers" were between 10 and 24 softballs, that had to be arranged in the fuselage, in much the same way as real passengers.  Flight efficiency and mission speed were important factors in the design.  The falcon was a novel, all carbon, tailless design with a wing serving as the fuselage.  The white striping assists the pilot with visibility.  Handling qualities were the most significant challenge to making the falcon fly, due primarily to a lack of adequate pitch damping.  The many crashes and rebuilds of the planes were an indication of the hard work and determination of the team to making a tailless design fly.

Specification List: 


  • Wingspan:         7.88 ft
  • Wing Area:        6.02 sq ft
  • Aspect Ratio:    10.3
  • Airfoil:                 SD7062


  • Airfoil:               Eppler 326
  • Length:             3.5 ft
  • Area:                4.96 sq ft
  • Aspect ratio:    0.4


  • Motor:           Astro FAI-25 geared
  • Controller:    Astro 204D
  • Batteries:     15x SR-2400 NiCd
  • Propeller:     14 in


  • Empty Weight (Without Batteries):    9.23 lb
  • Battery Weight:      2.02 lb
  • Payload Weight:    9 lb (24 Softballs)
  • Gross Weight:        20.25 lb


  • Pneumatic brakes on main gear
  • Tailless design
  • Top surface of body fully opens.  Magnetically latched
  • Pitch rate damper
Team Info: 

The OSU Black design team was led by a Chief Engineer, and divided into three primary groups: Aerodynamics/Stability and Control, Propulsion, and Structures.

Chief Engineer: Scott Bassett

Aerodynamics / Stability and Control:

  • J.J. Quisenberry (Lead)
  • Ben Cantwell
  • Todd Crane
  • Jonathan Rayner


  • Harikishin Bakhtiani
  • Mattew Howard
  • Kyle Uptmore
  • James Wickersham
  • Marvin Williams


  • Jonathan Ritchie (Lead)
  • Salman Akhtar
  • Mike Fournier
  • Nathan Guion
  • Michael Pinter
  • Scott Schmidt
  • Brian Reich

Pilot: Dan Bierly

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Andrew S. Arena, Jr.

Assistant: Joe Conner

*(The above team roster does not include all people involved in the project)

Contest Summary: 

The 2002 DBF contest required aircraft to perform a sequence of position, passenger delivery, and return missions in sequence.  Flight score was the sum of the aircrafts best 3 missions.  Overall score was the written report score, times the flight score, divided by RAC.  RAC was a "Rated Aircraft Cost" which penalized many aspects of the design.  It included penalties for design parameters such as; aircraft empty weight, engine power, wing area, etc.  A link to the complete rules may be found below.

Key to performance in the 2002 contest was a lightweight efficient design, that could fly the missions quickly.  The OSU Black team going into the contest, had one of the best written report scores, and one of the lowest RAC's.  In fact the motivation for the tailless design of the falcon was to further reduce the rated aircraft cost which also penalized each tail surface.  This was a risky decision since the tailless design resulted in an unstable pitch damping, and narrow cg range.  It took a great deal of design work, testing, rebuilding, and persistence, but ultimately the OSU Black team was able to make the aircraft fly.

Complete Rules

Official Contest Summary

Results Summary: 
  • Report Score:     91.9
  • Flight Score:       0.25
  • RAC:                    9.49
  • Total Score:        2.45
  • Overall Place:     16th

The following sponsors contributed to the project.  The OSU Black team greatly appreciates their support, and considers them members of our team.  Without their support, the project would not have been possible.

Advanced Composites Group
Crawford Mechanical Contractors, Inc.
Fred and Janet Bassett
CEAT Student Council
Wayne and Dortha Dickerson
Frontier Electronic Systems
David and Cindi Fournier
Gibson Airfield
Leo and Kathy Glynn
Arden and Kathryn Heinrichs
Philip and Sherry Howard
Robert and Jean Keegan
L. Andrew Maciula
NASA Oklahoma Space Grant Consortium
OSU Student Government Association
Harry and Betty Percy
Benny and Jennifer Privratsky
Marvin and Beverly Williams
Stanley-Lee Funeral Home

Design, Build, Fly