A TV program of 41th Japan International Birdman Rally (JIBR) 2018 (鳥人間コンテスト2018) was broadcasted on 29 Aug, 2018. Yomiuri telecasting corporation, who is organizer of the competition, unveiled results of the competition on their website after broadcasting the program. The TV program has been webcasted within Japan. However, unfortunately it can not be watched officially in other countries. So this article try to introduce you very brief overview of winner of the JIBR and cancelation of HPA category.
Glider category: Student’s team won consecutive by smash the team best!
Glider category is the oldest category in JIBR competitions. Machines used in this category can not have powered propellers. The participants try to fly with their own home-made light weight gliders from 10 metre height above water. The game record of the category is 501.38 meters (approx 548.32 yards) of flight distance.
Taking off of “Tsudanuma Aeronautical Team at Nihon university college of industrial technology”‘s glider, which is named “Gardenia”, piloted by Kento KUMAKURA, that is the winner of glider category in JIBR 2018.
Tsudanuma Aeronautical Team at Nihon university college of industrial technology and their pilot Kento KUMAKURA won the 1st prize with 446.42 metre (approx. 488.21 yards) flight distance in the glider category of this year. This flight distance is the 4th longest distance in this category and broke the team’s best 440.37 metre, which is the first 400 metre class fight by non-“Mitaka Mobara” team in the last year. Consecutive title of this category has been very difficult. In fact, teams which won consecutive during the past 41 years have been just only three teams, “TOA Birdman Club” which had been led by Mr. SASAKI current chief judge of JIBR, “Mitaka Mobara” a.k.a the undisputed king of birdman and this “Tsudanuma Aeronautical Team” the winner of this year. The former two cosecutive winning team won by same pilots. On the other hand, Tsudanuma Aeronautical Team won consecutively by each different pilots. It is said that experience is one of the most important factors in the JIBR glider category. It is difficult for students team to gain and keep experiences because members must exchange for their promotion and graduation. Therefore this consecutive wins is amazing achievement in JIBR history.
During competitions, surface of platform had been wet and extremely slippy condition here and there due to rain that fell last night. Most of birdman on that day suffered slippy platform as well as fickle wind reaching 5 m/s affected by a typhoon or a few sprinkle. The first and biggest victim is the first performer team MaPPL which students team at Tokyo Metropolitan University. They achieved incredible 450 metre flight but their flight were disqualified as invalid starting because their starting tail support member slipped on the platform and dropped into water in starting sequence. Most of following team did not succeed in start sequence by early release from support members or insufficient acceleration to avoid slipping on the platform.
If you have known JIBR, you may want to know a result of the undisputed king “Mitaka Mobara”. The team “Miataka Mobara” and their pilot Mr. OKI made 21.56 metre flight distance. It is indisputable that their flight was a complete failure. Their failure was led by the slippy platform again. A very high-speed approach run at which the team excel was too high risk in that condition. Their tail supporter slipped down shortly after beginning of their approach run. Their glider was not almost accelerated and was accidentally banked left by strong wind blown from right side. Mr. OKI tried to pull up but nothing had worked in that condition beyond physical limits of their glider. At last their glider with Mr. OKI dived straight into water.
The Tsudanuma Aeronautical Team and Mr. KUMAKURA was the last performers of the category as defending champion. It made decrease slippy points that they were the last performer. In addition to that, they attempted their flight in approx. 2 m/s a headwind from right side by good luck. Support member and Mr. KUMAKURA confirmed carefully slippy areas and tried taking fast approrch run. They succeed to make good upwind penetration with high airspeed. He held nose which wants to rise a couple of time, stabilized glide attitude around 2 metre altitude and then started to turn left gradually. It seemed to try to change heading downwind in order to decrease airspeed for improving glide ratio with keeping high ground speed. Their glider kept flying over water by paying its speed and altitude and finally splashed down silently at the point of 446.42 metre from the platform. Unfortunately cockpit hatches which are on bottom of its cockpit fairing was not closed during the flight, It gave some of excess drag to their glider and also took some altitude from their glider. It looked like 15 – 30 metre of their loss of distance at least. However their flight was almost opimal flight in that condition except failure of closing cockpit hatch.
Iwatani Clean Energy Team won the 2nd prize by remarkable 431.34 metre flight distance. The Iwatani team attempted to fly in stronger wind around 5 m/s from right side. They did not make fast approach run due to the slippy platform. It would lead normally a failed flight. But the pilot kept calm. He made high AOA to take enough lift of strong wind. And He and their glider took ground speed by wind drifting with keeping small sink rate. Those actions may not intent to extend flight distance but his hard training as flier may lead him to do so. As results, their pilot Mr. YANO became third 400 metre class birdman or fourth birdman including MaPPL’s pilot Mr. ANDO disqualified. The Iwatani team took over first place and kept it until the Tsudanuma Aeronautical Team. As an aside, Iwatani is a main sponsor company of this JIBR and their prize money will be donated to a good cause instead of use by the team.
In this competition, most of the teams were not able to show their designed performance in these very difficult conditions. However their hard work to do their best in each limited condition gave us some interesting techniques. Especially it is remarkable that the three 400 metre class flights achieved in each different condition, tail wind, strong cross wind, and head wind. I wish more birdmans show their own best performances in the next JIBR.
Distance of human-powered propeller airplane category: Gust of typhoon “JONGDARI” broke birdman’s wings.
This category is the most famous category in JIBR. Machine used in this category have propeller driven by human power. Some HPAs in this category have high performance as well as Gossamer Albatross. In most of case, it is difficult to fly 30 km and more due to high temperature (approx. 30 deg C/ 86 deg F or higher) of Japanese summer. The game record of this category is 40 km (approx. 24.85 mi), which was longest distance specified by JIBR rule as of 2017. The achievement of longest flight in the previous competition caused to revise the rules. The specified longest distance has set 60 km (approx. 37.28 mi). In order to achieve the longest 60 km flight, the rule requires to around a specified triangle course.
As reported a previous article, this competition of the category was cancelled after 4 flights. According to an original plan, this category will be conducted in second day. However JIBR organizer moved up schedule and informed to each entrants that this category would be start shortly after glider category in the first day since the typhoon JONGDARI was coming close.
The first performer was team Windnauts ,which is students team at Tohoku university, known as one of the most competitive teams. A flight of the team was started smoothly as always. However gusts from their left hand made a little drift of the HPA at point of approx 2000 metre from platform and just after that, the right wing spar of the HPA was suddenly broken. Fortunately their HPA did not sudden crash into water but was forced an emergency landing on water. The next team was Nihon university Aeronautical Students Group, which is pioneer of Japanese HPA and also one of the most competitive teams. Wind had been clam about 2 m/s when their HPA was on the platform. But variation of wind speed got increase. After taking off their HPA, tips of the wings were blown individually. It evoked a feeling of anxiety. And the left wing spar was suddenly broken at the point nearer than attachments of a flying wire. The HPA crashed immediately into water.
When the fifth team was on the platform, wind became strong constantly. JIBR organizer decided to cancel this competition almost instantly whereas the organizer usually wants to continue a competition although it may rather dangerous condition. Many students birdman had to return a just normal human without flying their own HPA due to this cancelation. However they made a more sound decision without more serious risk. Finally 3 of 4 HPAs in this category were crashed due to wing spar breaking. The other crashed team was also regarded as competitive team because the team got 3rd place in 2015. In view of their past achievements, their HPAs would be not lack of safety in normal wind conditions and the crashes of competitive HPAs clearly showed strange wind condition. Those means that safety and meteorological determination of organizer and every team admit of improvement. I wish that JIBR and HPAs will be sanely developed more safety from these experiences of this year.
Like & Reference;
- 大会の歴史 │鳥人間コンテスト │読売テレビ(Japanese) : HISTORY | Japan International Birdman Rally | YOMIURI TELECASTING CORPORATION(Official website)
- 鳥人間コンテスト 出場チーム│読売テレビ(Japanese) : TEAMS | Japan International Birdman Rally | YOMIURI TELECASTING CORPORATION(Official website)
- Tweet as following by Tsudanuma Aeronautical Team at Nihon university college of industrial technology official dated on 29 Aug. ,2018
poor English better than Japanese – thank you