Student group takes on design-and-build of Cyclone jet

The College of Engineering is known for numerous accomplishments, but one team of students is taking on a project that literally aims for the sky: designing and building a 10-passenger business jet.

Cyclone Business Jet (CBJ) is a student organization made up of more than 70 undergraduates who are primarily in engineering fields, along with some business and design majors. The group is broken up into four teams with each focusing on a different aspect of creating the jet: design, structures, aerodynamics, and performance.

Matt Eller, an entrepreneur, first brought the idea of completing a jet to the aerospace department over four years ago as a small project. Today, neither the project nor the team is small. Ben Wehrkamp, president of CBJ, says the group is picking up momentum and creating more interest than was first expected.

“The project is becoming larger than any of us thought; (the) magnitude of this project is going to explode. We are looking to keep everything under control,” said Wehrkamp.

So far the group has begun finalizing the exterior design of the jet, using a rapid prototyping machine in Howe Hall to create a prototype model of the aircraft.  With this scaled model, CBJ has just recently tested for flight characteristics inside of the Aerodynamic/Atmospheric Boundary Layer (AABL) Wind and Gust Tunnel at Iowa State.

CBJ is working from a complete model of a jet that featured a single-engine design and sat six passengers. The second-generation jet they are working on now includes changes in the passenger load and engine mountings. The new jet will be larger and feature a 45-foot wingspan. It will be approximately the same length as before and able to hold four more passengers with reduced fuel consuption.

“The old (jet) has a high, vertical tail and a low stabilizer, but since we are now mounting twin engines on top of the fuselage, we’re going to have a t-tail,” said Wehrkamp.

CBJ is the first club at Iowa State to design and build its own jet aircraft and the team has found it is vital they create partnerships with other schools to help with the manufacturing process of the jet.

The group has also undergone changes internally to fit the growing and evolving needs of the organization including adding students from all areas of study.

“Before it has always been aerospace engineers, with around 30 members, but now we’ve expanded and have other engineers, design students, and hoping to get marketing majors,” said Wehrkamp.

Wehrkamp says CBJ is about more than just building an airplane and students looking to get involved with face real-life problems and tasks designing the jet.

“Dr. Tom Shih, the former department chair, called (the jet) the perfect problem because there are so many different aspects of the aircraft to deal with, so even a marketing major or someone you wouldn’t typically consider having an association with the project, will need to be involved as we continue working on it,” said Wehrkamp.

To find our more information about CBJ or to get involved with the project, visit the team’s website.