From a development standpoint we are at about the same technical level as True Zero, they decided to go to the contest we did not. Seeing them go has caused a lot introspection on my part for the last few days. Emotionally the decision was hard, rationally it was and is the right decision.
First off we promised both the FAA and the Xprize foundation that we would demonstrate both a 90 second hover and a free flight. The 90 second hover requirement was in our FAA application and in the LLC rules. We could not accomplish that before the go/stay decision needed to be made. While I could have asked to waive the requirements, personally I don’t like waiving safety based rules. As a general principal establish your safety rules before you go out to the field and don’t violate them with out a pow-wow of all involved to think about what you are violating. I can’t say were 100% perfect on this front, but we try.
Secondly I saw no reason to risk the vehicle. When I was my sons age my Dad and I designed built and raced outboard hydro planes. We were successful with what we did. We placed at the nationals with our first joint boat design. This taught me one thing things never go as well at the competition as they do in practice. If you have an issue every tenth practice it will appear in every competition, thats just the way it happens. We aren’t afraid to loose the vehicle, we just don’t think it makes sense to risk it until we have worked out more of the bugs. We have complete spare airframe all fabricated, it passed hydro last week. I have a spare of every single part on the vehicle with two exceptions: I have not welded up the spare motor because we need to work on the mixing problems. I haven’t built a new vane assembly because I want to upgrade that to Rene 41 for possible biprop use.
Third in order to go to the competition I would have had to write a 22K check for insurance. I would say without getting it done in practice we would have a 10% chance of success. All this for the possibility of taking 2nd place. I have no illusions after watching the Armadillo team center on the pad with their camera in real time, we could not beat that for the tie breaker.
If Armadillo takes the two first prizes that leaves 2 second prizes to be won. True Zero could take it, but given my own estimation the odds of that are low.
If the first prizes are won then its possible that the rules will change to first to demonstrate rather than a central exhibition. This would allow me to demonstrate at my “home field” under my waiver without having to buy insurance. This could happen as soon as midyear. So I wait 6 or 7 months, get to do a lot more practicing, save 22K and improve my chances.
A rational decision…. emotionally its still hard to stay home and watch others toss Hail Mary's.