Simulated Testing Underway for World’s first Foot-Controlled Airplane

Members of an EAA chapter and a team of engineering students are custom modifying a Van’s RV-10 as a model for pilots with disabilities.

I love the quote: “Anything worth having is worth waiting for!” This wisdom has proven to be true in our journey to build the Impossible Airplane. Announced to the world in July 2021, the project has stirred excitement, especially for its unprecedented feature—the first airplane designed with foot controls.

A look at the tail cone of the Impossible Airplane being built in Toms River, New Jersey, by Experimental Aviation Association (EAA) Chapter 898. [Courtesy: Jessica Cox]

The response from Van’s Air Force was most inspiring, filled with incredible ideas and enthusiasm. We were ecstatic when an Experimental Aviation Association (EAA) chapter out of Toms River, New Jersey, led by Robert Newman, volunteered to take on the build. By June 2022, we received the first shipment of the Van’s Aircraft RV-10 tail, followed by the wings in October. Meeting the EAA Chapter 898 building team was a moment of profound gratitude.

Over the past 10 months, we have also worked with a team of engineering students from the University of Arizona who have designed modifications. These brilliant minds have crafted modifications for the airplane with diligence and ingenuity. Supporting them through their journey, attending their presentations and witnessing their dedication, I’ve come to appreciate their sleepless nights. Compared to these students, my college years looked more focused on socialization opportunities. The culmination of their efforts was proudly displayed at the university’s Engineering Design Day, showcasing their hard work to the public. Family members who came also talked about how hard they worked. I was proud of them.

The team of advisers, mentors and students, (from left to right), Simon Quang Minh Ly,  Doug May, Jessica Cox, service dog Chewie, Ranatto Miguel Ramos, Sheehab Zaman, Zachary Thach, Alejandro Lopez. Not pictured: Dr. David Margolis. [Courtesy: Jessica Cox]

The moment I tried the foot controls was a little overwhelming. Imagine slipping into a custom-made suit or dress for the first time, tailored to your exact measurements. The modifications on the RV-10 were my perfect fit. Living in a world designed for individuals with hands and arms, I often adapt and adjust. But with these modifications, I felt as if the airplane was built for me. It seemed special, and I perceived a unique sense of unity with the aircraft.

At first, I couldn’t keep the simulated airplane from crashing. I have never had to actuate the rudder(s) via a separare cockpit control.  Unlike my Ercoupe, where the rudder surfaces are interconnected with the ailerons, the RV-10 required learning a new axis of control. It was like relearning to fly. There were frustrations, and I made mistakes, like forgetting to lower the flaps before landing. Again, the Ercoupe doesn’t have flaps. So, that landing turned more into a bounce followed by a stall and a crash. But the most important part is I kept it airborne for a good, long while, and that is something to celebrate.

Simon Quang Minh Ly and Zachary Thach set up the controls for Jessica Cox’s first test flight. [Courtesy: Jessica Cox]

My thanks go out, as always, to everyone who supports the Impossible Airplane. But today, I offer a special thank you to students Simon Quang Minh Ly, Alejandro Lopez, Renatto Miguel Ramos, Zachary Thach, Sheehab Zaman, their college mentor, professor Doug May, and their adviser Dr. David Margolis.

As we proceed, our focus will be on refining these designs and crafting stronger replicas for display at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. We eagerly invite anyone interested to try the controls with their feet or hands. Your feedback will be invaluable as we continue to refine our designs and incorporate modifications into the build happening in New Jersey. We are not just building an airplane— we are reimagining the possibilities of flight.


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