July 23, 2010
By Alton K. Marsh
It 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.
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.
The Flying Physicians Association (FPA) has become the latest group to lend support to third-class medical reform and urge government officials to speed up their review of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM). The NPRM would expand the number of pilots who could fly without needing to obtain a third-class medical certificate, a standard that has been successfully used by sport pilots for a decade.
California pilot Christopher Braun has created a revamped version of the cleco plier that is said to be lighter and more ergonomic.
There is no shortage of pilots in eastern Washington, but there does seem to be a scarcity of clubs in that part of the country.
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