Aerospace Engineering at Reaction Research

This is "Laminar Magic," designed and built by aerodynamicist Alex Strojnik. In 1987 I had the honor of helping Alex and his wife Cirila to complete the aircraft. I was also very privileged to fly it for a National Speed Record over a 3 kilometer course in FAI ( / NAA (National Aviation Association) Category C-1a/0 (land plane, piston engine, propeller driven, under 661 pounds--300 kilograms--gross weight), for "Speed over a straight 3 km course at restricted altitude."

Laminar Magic was designed to prove that with attention to detail in the areas of surface preparation and proper shape ("laminar flow" or micro-aerodynamics), high speeds can be acheived on much less power than most aircraft require. Ultimately this results in reduced cost for the aviation enthusiast.

At 498 pounds, the actual gross weight (including pilot and full fuel) was well below the category maximum. Limited distance between engine centerline and tail boom resulted in limitations in the engine/propeller combination. Since propeller size governs the amount of power that can be transferred to the airstream, the power was limited to approximately 25 horsepower. Despite this tiny power output, Laminar Magic shattered the previous record with 126.7 miles per hour in its first and only record attempt. This is faster than most cars with four or more times the power.

No aircraft before or since has flown faster on less power than Laminar Magic!

After the record flight Dr. Strojnik and I spent many hours discussing a faster design and doing preliminary calculations. However, during that process we discovered another designer who had already begun a very similar aircraft. This is the Aria:

Aria's designer, Sam Walker, had conceived and built it as a self-launching sailplane. It's one of the most beautiful aircraft I have seen, and undoubtedly one of the best powered sailplane designs ever. Sam engineered an ingenious centrifugally-deployed folding propeller that was spring loaded to streamline itself when the engine was not running.

The twin boom tail allows for fixed engine mounting, thus eliminating the complex retracting-engine designs of other motorized sailplanes. Obviously, it also allows the engine to be mounted in pusher fashion, eliminating the sightline problems and laminar flow disturbance inherent with tractor engine locations.

I found out about Aria because Sam had corresponded with Alex on issues of laminar flow design, Alex's speciality. As Alex and I discussed the configuration required to improve the record speed, we settled on a twin-boom tail design. This would yield clearance for a larger propeller and thus a more powerful engine.

When Alex remembered Sam's correspondence about his similar design, he dug it out and it was almost identical to our preliminary design layouts! We reestablished contact with Sam, who had been unable to finish the project (Aria never flew). Eventually he allowed me to purchase it from him to use as a starting point for a new record attempt.

With a shorter wing and a symetrical airfoil I hope to acheive 275 knots!

(3D model courtesy of Paul Shaheen,

Sadly, Dr. Strojnik passed away in 1995. Mr. Walker passed away a few years later. It is unfortunate that neither man lived to see the new airplane fly. I have not done much on the design since, but hope to someday complete it.

In addition to the parts to assemble one complete aircraft, I have a full set of molds for the fuselage for the Aria, and most of the fixtures and other molds. At some point I may consider offering Aria in kit or plans form. If you have questions about the aircraft or any other aspects of aerospace engineering or aircraft design, please contact me and have patience because I will reply as I have time:

Also please consider joining and supporting the Experimental Soaring Association. They have an excellent and very imformative newsletter.

Links of Interest

Dr. Strojnik's essential books on light aircraft design are available from Reaction Research:
His popular plans-built S-2 sailplane can be seen at:
Bob Parker in Baker City, OR was kind enough to send these photos of his completed S2
05/27/12 Raphael Brescia's CEA-308 from Brazil, current C-1a/0 3 km speed record holder at 360.13 km/hr
02/17/12 Windward Performance
02/17/12 Bob Kuykendall's HP24 Project
Other Links
Jukka Tervamaki's JT-8 motorglider similar to the S-2 can be seen at:
Another beautiful aircraft influenced by Dr. Strojnik is the Vmax:
Aircraft design software (freeware) based on Dr. Strojnik's books can be found at:
Dr. Strojnik won the Paul E. Tuntland Memorial Award from the Soaring Society of America in 1987:
Sam Walker worked with George Applebay in developing the Aria, which shared at least some of its features with George's "Zuni" design.
Mike Arnold is a subsequent record holder in this C1a0 category for "Speed over a straight 3 km course at restricted altitude."
Blériot Medal recipient Peter Scheichenberger is the previous record holder in category at 351.39 km/h (218.3 miles/hr) in a BD-5B with 75 hp. Anyone have photos or contact information for Peter? (Thanks to Scott Rider for update on the record!)

No link available

Leeon Davis's beautiful DA-11 uses an 18 hp Briggs and Stratton V-twin lawnmower engine!

Bruce Carmichael's book is also a must read for any aspiring aircraft designer.

Bruce doesn't do email. You can purchase his book by sending a check or money order (the $25 price includes postage to U.S. addresses) to:

34795 Camino Capistrano
Capistrano Beach, CA 92624

Bruce's biographical sketch
Molt Taylor's Mini Imp
Ligeti Stratos
Ligeti Stratos Video
Gevers Genesis Triphibian
Mountain Goat Bush Plane
Viper Jet
Sky Shark
George Markey's Ultrabat Aerobatic Ultralight
Peter Foster's similar Sapphire
Now defunct Valkyrie
Jon Sharp's Nemesis
Sparrow Hawk Twin Boom Pusher (scroll down)
Pascal Schadegg's Aeriks 200 Ultralight
Anderson-Greenwood AG-14
Cessna XMC
Sadler Vampire!i=125693277&k=G8QSe
Ameur Baljims 1A
Ameur Altania

Other Links of Interest

Sportsman Pilot Magazine
Experimental Aircraft Association
Vintage Ultralight Association
FAI International Air Sports Federation landplane records

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