PRESENTATION OF THE AÉRO-MÉDALIER PROJECT
Philippe Carette, a flight instructor, is the father of this project developed in collaboration with a team of five 3rd-year engineering students at ISAE-SUPAERO for their Engineering-corporation Project (PIE). Their goal is to build a functional demonstrator in pursuit of the production of a prototype to be presented to the aviation authorities for flight certification. This project has been presented at the Salon International de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace du Bourget (SIAE – Paris Air Show), on invitation from the Fédération Nationale de l’Aviation Marchande and with support from the Ministry of Sports.
Philippe Carette became paraplegic following a motorcycle accident in Singapore, where he was a metrology engineer, at the age of 23. Philippe returned to France and made a new life for himself and, as he met various people, he developed a passion for aviation. He has been flying for 22 years and has earned all the qualifications, from the private pilot’s license to qualification for flight by night in mountainous regions. He has been a flight instructor for 5 years and has mainly trained able-bodied pilots. Mainly, because in France there are just 10 equipped airplanes on 5 sites. Too little compared to the demand from disabled students.
Philippe explained how he got the idea for this project. “After flying for years on all types of hand controls, I thought it would be interesting to standardize this system in terms of command ergonomics so that it could be transposed to all types of flying machines at training centers and flying clubs.” This demand came from the “disabled student” population, but also from training centers that wanted to get involved in piloting for everyone.
The Aéro-Médalier is the name of the special hand control system that this ex-engineer is seeking to develop. It is a piloting control system that has an additional lever located on the left side of the cockpit which is connected to the rudder controls, enabling people who have lost the use of their legs to enjoy flying. What makes it unique is that it can be transposed onto all kinds of flying machines. This concept can also be adapted to all kinds of vehicles and machines, from bulldozers to snow groomers. This also gives it a social dimension by improving movement and employability for disabled persons.
But the specifications are still complex, both technically and legally. This is a component that is external to the aircraft and it must be easy to install and remove without any modifications to the aircraft in order to receive certification more easily. This supplementary system must be light and respond to the criteria of aeronautical reliability.
Philippe Carette has developed this project using the Occitanie technology platform, which brings together public institutions of education on all levels with company projects. The Aéro-Médalier combines the skills of students at the Lycée Technique Charles Renouvier in Prades (a technical high school in the Pyrénées Orientales department) and those of third-year engineering students at ISAE-SUPAERO.
The Aéro-Médalier won the call for projects organized by the Centre National pour le Développement du Sport (CNDS – National Center for the Development of Sports) under the Ministry of Sports as part of the 2024 heritage and society project in the lead-up to the Paris Olympic Games. This award for social innovation and the development of practices at the heart of the sports project has ensured financing for communication and for achieving certification. “A certain number of partners have joined the project in the last 6 months, but we have to find other sources of financing to keep us in the €5,000 to €8,000 range needed for producing the equipment for each unit. We think that this is an affordable budget for flying clubs that would like to acquire it,” the project’s spokesman pointed out.
By including the particularities of a disability into the complexity of a cockpit, the Aéro-Médalier takes on the hardest part, demonstrating that certain aspects of disabled people’s everyday life could be made easier, it is just a question of political willpower and societal vision.
The short term objective of the students at ISAE-SUPAERO and their spokesman, Théo Masurier, is to draw up highly precise specifications to bring the demonstrator to certification. Then comes commercialization under the auspices of the Fédération Française de l’Aéronautique for aircraft, sold to private individuals, federations, or training centers at a reasonable price.
The ISAE-SUPAERO project team includes five engineering students, Joseph Blanc (Ecole Polytechnique under application at ISAE-SUPAERO), Vincent Maillet (3rd year), Kevin Tran (3rd year), Adrien Vasseur (Ensta Paritech) and Théo Masurier (3rd year). We met the latter to discuss how this project fits in with their studies.
INTERVIEW WITH THE PROJECT’S SPOKESMAN, THÉO MASURIER
You are a team of five 3rd-year students who chose to join the “Aéro-Médalier” project for your PIE. What were your motivations?
We chose to work on this project out of the 80 offered in October 2018. The challenge was simple and exciting – how to get the Aéro-Médalier to fly legally. We worked for 5 and a half months, starting with an existing prototype, and we gathered all the information needed to use the Aéro-Médalier and integrate it into aircraft in compliance with the aviation regulations.
After this semester of work, what progress has been made on the project from a technical point of view? Could you give me a technical update on how the project is moving forward?
We have managed to speed up the project by organizing a seminar with major players in the aviation field. This meeting between disabled pilots, inspector pilots from the Direction de la Sécurité de l’Aviation Civile (DSAC – Civil Aviation Safety Department), aviation physicians, research professor in navigability and neuroergonomics, enabled us to draw up and set a strategy for applying for flight use authorization. Thanks to our bibliographical research, we have also established the groundworks for specifications that each component in the Aéro-Médalier must comply with to be accepted for flight.
We have also implemented a communication plan. We created a logo, a YouTube channel and Facebook pages to increase our visibility. We took part in the awards ceremony for the call for projects at the Centre National pour le Développement du Sport (CNDS – National Center for the Development of Sports) attended by the Minister of Sports, Ms Roxana Maracineanu. We have also organized a series of conferences at the Lycée Charles Renouvier in Prades, and at ISAE-SUPAERO, for middle school and high school students as part of the OSE l’ISAE-SUPAERO Diversity Program. The project will also be presented at the 53rd Paris Air Show from June 17th to 23rd, 2019.
What got you interested in this approach?
The important thing for us was to bring our practical assistance to a project with strong social impact on a human scale. Being close to people, working in a team and with other teams made up of teachers from the high school in Prades, politicians, and administrative services was highly motivating. We were able to increase our experience in project management and to delve into technical, legislative and social issues.
What are ISAE-SUPAERO’s expectations in terms of the results of this PIE?
The aim is for us to discover project management on a practical level, to draw up a detailed report on our work and to present it orally. The team voluntarily raised these expectations through its motivation and a desire for involvement linked to Philippe Carette’s desire to take this project as far as possible on the national level. The aviation authorities, the Minister of Sports, Ms Roxana Maracineanu, and many other people with the power to change things are now aware of this project. That is our work’s major contribution.