FlyNano is the brainchild of an aviation consultant, designer an enthusiastic pilot Aki Suokas who first dreamed of an aircraft to weigh less than 70 kilos over 7 years ago.
This magical weight limit determines how an aircraft is classified - below 70 kg is unlicensed fun-fliers territory. FlyNano single-seater was officially launched at Aero 2011 in Friedrichshafen in Germany in April and photos from the test sessions are to be believed then you can orders yours soon. Technical details and more photos at the end of the interview.
I had the chance to ask Aki Suokas a few questions about his baby, the idea, the motivation and the challenges along the way. Enjoy!
Lauri: How did you come up with FlyNano? What are you trying to achieve with FlyNano?
Aki Suokas: Nano was born initially as a brain exercise idea. Some fill sudoku puzzles when on leave, some design impossible aircrafts! I did play with an idea how to make an aircraft, which would fit into EASA 70 kg class and would be designed so that it would be easy to produce in big numbers. For years that idea was a dead end, either too heavy or too complicated (or impossible to fly). Eventually a design was found that allowed the goal to be reached.
That EASA 70 kg class (flying machine which weights less than 70 kg including fuel) is essentially a license free class. It is outside most regulations in European countries. Machines in this class have been soft wing things, that are very different from normal aircrafts. Which is not liked by pilots of “normal” aircrafts. Pilots of normal aircrafts need license to fly them.
The bureaucracy to maintain pilots license is heavy (and expensive) and you could easily lose your license due to insignificant variation in your health. So an need for license free fun aircraft for ex-pilots was in my mind when playing with the idea.
Lauri: Who are the engineers behind this project and what is their background?
Aki Suokas: I am the person behind Nano. I am aeronautical engineer (MSc) and I have been involved in several aircrafts during my career. In chronological order: PIK-20E self launching sailplane, PIK-23 two seat glider towplane, PIK-27 single seat towplane and on many modifications to existing aircrafts. I also have experience with designing boats (www.fantan.fi).
I am also active pilot, with about 2000 flying hours in many different aircrafts. I have managed an engineering company Windcraft Oy for about 20 years, which is involved in many aspects of flying. There are some free 3D CAD models available in my web pages. ;-)
Lauri: When did you start thinking about FlyNano?
Aki Suokas: Around 2004. It is hard to say exact date for first thoughts. First (cardboard) model of the existing configuration was flown (thrown from balcony) in December 2006.
Lauri: Has the concept and design changed over time?
Aki Suokas: Yes, a lot. First layouts looked like normal aircrafts. One version in-between was a weird looking machine with tricycle landing gear (two in front, one in back).
Lauri: What is the speed, max altitude and range of Flynano?
Aki Suokas: As any pilot knows, the sensation of flying disappears very soon after lift off. The feeling is about the same at 200 meters and 2 km, so no need for altitude.
Nano is for fun only, and being an open design it really is not for traveling from one place to an other place. I would expect that you go to fly and return to start point very soon. Of course the present endurance will also force you to return soon.
Depending on engine power top speed is 130 – 150 km/h with endurance of 10-30 minutes.
Lauri: Why is the wing shape different from what we have seen in traditional airplanes?
Aki Suokas: In this size, pilot is the biggest component of the aircraft. How to locate pilot and on what gesture dictates most dimensions for the geometry. Pilot height is about the same 1,8 meters in Nano and in Airbus! But in Airbus you do not need to consider that.
Wing shape was an long evolution of that basic limitation (pilot). As this is very light aircraft, pilot is actually heavier that the aircraft, weight distribution is crucial. And putting aerodynamical limitations into equation, you have a difficult problem. This shape puts pilots center of gravity on the same spot as the aircrafts center of gravity must be. And that is important as different size pilots should preferably fly Nano without cumbersome ballast weight.
Lauri: How many hours did you spend for engineering?
Aki Suokas: No idea!
Lauri: What were the main engineering challenges when designing and building Flynano?
Aki Suokas: Weight, aerodynamics, hydrodynamics, and ease of production. And they do interact with each. Change in one aspect has effect on others, so the design loop is highly iterative. Of course it helps to have good intuition on what the effects are, so experience helps.
Biggest challenge was to make parts such that they could be easily mass produced without too much weight. If you have no price limit, this would be easy.
Lauri: What software did you use for engineering tasks?
Aki Suokas: Rhinoceros and several aerodynamic and structural softwares.
Lauri: How much time does it take to build Flynano?
Aki Suokas: Nano is intended for mass production and we plan to priduce them in hundreds even next year. Should reach production rate of several units per week next spring.
Lauri: What materials you are using for the body?
Aki Suokas: Nano is made entirely of carbon / epoxy composite.
Lauri: What have you learned during the years working on Nano and were there people throughout the years saying that you are trying the impossible and you should give up?
Aki Suokas: I have in my frieds some similar minded persons, who I have had possibility to discuss details. They have had their own airplane projects going on so our brush up has been to both directions.
It has been clear to all of us, that the feasibility was not an issue. I had only some details to brush up. And it was kind of fun trying to figure out possible solutions. Besides this inner circle I have shown Nano to some trusted persons, and the normal reaction has been: "Wow, when I can get one!".
Lauri: What is the future of this project? What are your plans?
Aki Suokas: Future looks good. Feedback from AERO2011 fairs this spring hs been extremely good. I think we have stirred aviation community all over the world with Nano. And we are definitely going into production.
FlyNano comes in 3 basic variants: the electrically-powered series E 200, a petrol-powered Series G 240, and the uprated racing models Series R 260/300.
Wingspan is nearly 5 meters, nose to tail 3.5 m, and height 1.3 m. Maximum take off weight is 200 Kg. Speed range 70 – 140 km/h with a service ceiling of 3 km. FlyNano’s true airspeed is about 140 kmh at 75% power with a theoretical operational distance of 70 km. Prices range from € 25.000 - 27.000 with a trailer/storage box at € 5.300.
Check out more info about FlyNano from their website.