Every year PADA (Personal Aircraft
Design Academy) awards its perpetual trophy to a personal aircraft
designer innovator who advanced the state of the art in aircraft
performance and efficiency. This year's trophy was awarded to John
Roncz whose custom designed airfoils and wings flew two
'round-the-world record airplanes, the Voyager and the GlobalFlyer.
Roncz was also an independent
consultant for Scaled Composites and in that capacity provided the
detail aerodynamic design (including the wings and stability and
control) for the Catbird and the Ares fighter aircraft.
Roncz has also designed several of
his own airplanes, including the Genesis - the first successful
semi-flying wing sailplane ever built - and the Eagle personal
airplane - the first Australian all-composite airplane.
PADA's keynote speaker was Dr. Morton
Grosser, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who was part of the famed
Human Powered Aircraft team lead by Dr. Paul MacCready. He was also
involved with the 1981 Solar Challenger solar-powered airplane. Dr.
Grosser presented the fascinating history of electric powered
aircraft pointing out that the first electric powered flight
preceded the Wright brothers-an electric powered large airship
(hydrogen for buoyancy) flew in France in 1884, powered by an 8.5-hp
Dr. Grosser challenged PADA's members
to seek highly efficient airplane designs through innovations in
battery technology as well as the emerging ultra capacitors. To
galvanize the audience he stated that as a venture capitalist, he is
involved with start-ups that have prototyped high-efficiency
lightweight electric motors and nano technology for tailoring
material properties. Dr. Grosser has authored books on human powered
flight, inventions that shaped the world and an informative
biography of Rudolf Diesel.
John Roncz began his aeronautical career by building a computer and
then adapting a NASA airfoil analysis code to run on it. He spent
months learning airfoil theory and comparing computer predictions to
wind tunnel tests. When Burt Rutan heard of his work he asked John
to analyze some airfoil candidates for his Solitaire sailplane. John
sent him the results for these along with some of his own airfoil
designs for comparison. Burt chose the Roncz airfoil section, which
worked very well. This led to a collaboration, which lasted over 20
years, in which Burt developed configurations and John analyzed the
stability and designed custom airfoil sections for each airplane.
John is responsible for some portion
of 50 aircraft designs. The most recent to fly is the Icon A5, an
amphibious Light Sport Aircraft. He was responsible for the
aerodynamic design and performance of the GlobalFlyer, a radical jet
in which Steve Fossett recently set 3 world records. It was the
second airplane John worked on that was placed in the National Air
& Space Museum. He has designed 16 propellers and wind turbines,
including the propellers for the globe-circling Voyager and the
Venturing outside the aircraft field,
he designed the radical wing-sailed catamaran, which successfully
defended the America’s Cup in 1988, and a winning WSC class
racecar. John was profiled in Air & Space magazine, published by
the Smithsonian. He wrote twelve articles for Sport Aviation, and
has guest lectured at eight Universities, including being honored as
an “Old Master” by Purdue University.
Among his awards are the Stanley Dzik
Memorial Trophy; the Honor Roll of Professional Pilot magazine; the
Medal of Achievement from Sailing World magazine; the Professor
August Raspet Award; and the Milwaukee School of Engineering Gold
Medal. John served as a “Distinguished Lecturer” for the
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. In November 2000
he was honored by His Royal Highness Prince Philip at a ceremony in
London, where he was presented with the Prince’s Australian Medal
for the design of the Eagle.
John is an honors graduate of the
University of Notre Dame, an artist, and a classical pianist. He
holds a commercial pilot’s license with multi-engine, instrument
and glider ratings and has logged over 1800 hours.