Lam Aileron promises efficiency, savings

July 23, 2010

Lam AileronIt was 1975 when the late Larry Lam, known as an innovative aerospace engineer, came up with an aileron design that manages adverse yaw. That wasn’t all it did.

Full-span flaps used in the design meant greater safety and flight at lower speeds, said his son, Lam Aviation CEO Dr. Michael Lam. The smaller  wing allowed by the design meant a smoother ride through turbulence. Short field performance would be improved, and the payload would improve. It meant the Piper Malibu, known to owners as a two-person airplane with full fuel, could fill its seats, Lam said.

There was just one problem. His father never got a patent for it. (It is patented now.) “It took 20 years to convince Dad. He looked at it as his hobby,” said his son, an anesthesiologist. During that time the aileron design was shown at Oshkosh on an aircraft Larry Lam built himself.

The advantages are more interesting to manufacturers of larger aircraft, where the cost of a new design is less of a concern, and fuel savings plus increased payload make good business sense. It involves more moving parts in the wing and fresh FAA approval, usually a costly process.

The design mixes the functions of ailerons and flaps. To turn, only an upward aileron is needed to provide rolling moment. Larry Lam discussed his idea before his death with Cessna, NASA Langley Research Center, and Burt Rutan, Michael Lam said. He had easy access to fellow aircraft designers. He worked on the lifting body, the B–70 bomber, the B–1 bomber, the Space Shuttle, ICBM missiles, and air-to-air missiles.

Greg Cole of Windward Performance has retrofitted a Lancair Columbia 300 airframe (now Cessna Corvalis) with a new wing equipped with the Lam Aileron. Following an initial test flight and evaluation in Bend, Oregon, test pilot Len Fox will fly the Lam Aileron-equipped Columbia to EAA AirVenture.

Lam’s son intends to see that his father’s idea gets a fair hearing.

Al Marsh

Alton K. Marsh | AOPA Pilot Senior Editor, AOPA

AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.