Record-setting fighter pilot joins forces with SWT

Date of release: 08/17/99

SAN MARCOS, TEXAS — A cooperative effort between PEAR Industries and SWT is assembling chemists, manufacturers and fighter pilots.

Southwest Texas State University science labs have been selected to test and improve a substance that will be used in the next generation of aircraft and submarines. Dick Rutan, director and commander of the first-ever, non-stop, unrefueled flight around the world, the Voyager, and Tony Rothschild, director of PEAR Industries, were among consultants who met with Patrick Cassidy, director of the Institute for Environmental and Industrial Science (IEIS), at SWT recently to discuss the joint venture and tour the facilities.

In 1986, Rutan, along with his “wingman” Mike Melvill, flew the largest composite material aircraft in history around the world in a 10-day, non-stop, non-refueled flight.

According to Rutan, traditional aircraft are comprised primarily of aluminum; however, composite material is five times stronger, less expensive and less likely to corrode. But, with any material, there is room for improvement, which is why SWT has been selected to begin testing and improving a resin, which is used as a fiber-bonding agent, in the composite material.

“Anyone who has any vision toward the future in structure will or has become an advocate of composite material,” Rutan said. “We will continue to work towards improving the structure, binding, strength and durability of the material.”

Cassidy said the IEIS is excited about the opportunity and believes the improved composite material can be used to build a lighter, stronger and better aircraft with improved flammability and longer life.