MSU team wins IT FLIES competition

May 18, 2013

A team of undergraduate aerospace engineering majors won the international 2013 IT FLIES Annual Aircraft and Handling USA Flight Simulation Competition.

The first place finish earned the five-member team $1,000 and a year’s free membership in the Royal Aeronautical Society.

Nine teams from the United States and the United Kingdom competed in the April 13 competition at the University of Dayton, Ohio. Manchester University and the University of Dayton finished second and third, respectively.

This was the first year Mississippi State has participated in the competition, which is sponsored by Merlin Flight Simulation Group.

Team adviser Calvin Walker, a senior flight test engineer at Mississippi State, explained that after learning of IT FLIES he observed the competition to make sure it would provide a fun and challenging experience for his students, who work on their aircraft design project during the year.

The competition asks to provide aircraft data which is used to generate computer simulations that are then flown and evaluated by professional test pilots. With designs ranging from an airship to a human powered aircraft, it aims to promote the application of learned aerospace engineering knowledge.

“This competition gives the students feedback on their design, which is how the real world works ” Walker said. “You can go through paper design, but until you simulate the design or build it, you don’t have the feel of how well the paper design will work.”

Although teams can enter designs of exiting airplanes, the Mississippi State team chose to enter an original aircraft design into the competition.

The MSU team simulated a highly aerobatic single engine turboprop aircraft with a 40 foot wingspan. The design met the System Requirements Document for the Air Force Light Air Support Competition.

During competition, students enter their aircraft parameters into an integrated flight simulation system that is composed of an MP521 Engineering Flight Simulator with instructor station, an MP500-1 UAV simulation development and control station, and an MPATC simulation station, which are networked to create the total system.

Students can work on individual simulators for design development projects or fully integrated systems that allow the simulated aircraft can fly in the same visual scene of the airspace and environment.

The simulator instructor and operator, including the professional test pilot, can control the system’s scenario.

Teams are required to give the audience and judges a 10 minute oral presentation in addition to providing an aircraft design.

The Merlin Flight Simulation Group hosts the annual competition in the U.S. and U.K. to enhance students’ knowledge. Students also have the opportunity to talk and learn from test pilots as well as create international relationships.

For more information about the IT FLIES Annual Aircraft and Handling Competition, visit its website at

Members of the 2013 IT FLIES competition team (by hometown):

COLLIERVILLE, Tenn.— Anthony Favaloro, a senior aerospace engineering major.

CRESTWOOD, Ky.— Wesley Melton, a senior aerospace engineering major.

GULFPORT— Neal Rivenbark, a senior aerospace engineering major.

OCEAN SPRINGS— Austin Powell, a senior aerospace engineering major

YAZOO CITY.— John Nott, a senior aerospace engineering major.

By Mary Kate McGowan