AerospaceCase Studies

Disabled man obtains pilot license thanks to 3D printed flight control device

The ServoFly T4/1 device was designed and additively manufactured by Aidro

ServoFly T4/1, a 3D printed flight control device produced by Italian AM parts production service Aidro, enabled Mattia Negusanti to obtain his pilot license at the Fano airport, in Central Italy. This is the first case in Italy, and perhaps in the world, in which a person who’d lost an arm in an accident obtains a license to pilot an ultralight plane, using a customized flight control produced via additive manufacturing.

Following the approval from the Aero Club D’Italia on the use of the ServoFly device, on August 3rd, Mattia took the VDS flight exam and passed it with excellent results. Today he can fly safely using only one arm. In 2015 after a severe car accident, Mattia reported serious injuries and hovered between life and death for about ten days. He was in an irreversible coma and received the extreme unction Christian sacrament on three different occasions.3D printed flight control

His strong soul resisted, but the car accident left severe consequences, which forced the thirty-four-year-old from Urbino to change lifestyles and habits. After 4 years of intensive therapies and numerous cutting-edge surgical interventions, Mattia began again to live, work and find solutions that allow him to live with the the loss of his left arm.

3D printing to fly

The ServoFly T4/1, is one of these solutions. An electric actuator allows Mattia to safely pilot the ultralight in using a single hand. The device was designed and produced with 3D metal printing by the Italy-based company, Aidro.

Mattia was a Carabiniere (one of Italy’s police forces) in the operative department before the accident. Thanks to the support of the Army Command in Pesaro and of General Marco Filoni, he discovered his love for flying.

“The day I started working again after the accident, I arrived at my new job at the Ministry of Defense and General Filoni, a flight instructor, proposed me to fly with him,” Mattia recollects. “I said: ‘Comandante, I’ll come along and, if I like it, then we have to find a way to get me to fly a plane myself'”. So it all started: a dream that seemed impossible. Despite clashing with some skepticism, Mattia obtained medical approval to fly and he joined the flight school at the Aero Club Fano.

Now an innovative technical solution was needed that would allow him to fly independently and safely, even with just one arm. The ServoFly was thus created, born from the initial idea by designer Paolo Picchi and his cousin Davide. They presented their seemingly crazy project to Valeria Tirelli, CEO of Aidro. Without hesitation, she embraced the project, fascinated by the idea of achieving something “impossible”, and by the willpower of the disabled young man.3D printed flight control

Free as bird

Aidro’s team and AM expertise and the company’s 3D metal printers brought the custom-made solution to life: ServoFly T4/1, the actuator that controls the engine gas control bar. The 3D printed device is unique and has been customized to meet Mattia’s disability and also as a “plug & fly” piece of equipment, that is easy to install on the cockpit of the plane. The ServoFly is attached to the bar without requiring any modification to the aircraft, which therefore did not have to undergo further revisions and certification processes.

The aircraft of the flight school at Aero Club Fano, a Pioneer 200 built by Alpi Aviation, has now become an inclusive vehicle, which can be used by any pilot, with or without disabilities. To further increase the ServoFly’s innovation, TecnoElettra Impianti srl, a company leader in wiring and electronic systems for Formula 1 and Moto GP, participated in the project. Its founder, Leo Cantergiani, created the electrical part of the actuator that carries all the main controls on a joystick installed on the airplane cloche, which consequently can be controlled with just one hand.3D printed flight control

The mechanical and flight tests were carried out by the pilots at the Fano airport, under the supervision of Commander Davide Cecchini, and the support of the flight instructors of the Eagles Aviation Academy. Thanks to willpower and teamwork, Mattia’s dream of flying has become a reality, showing how 3D printing can enable people with disabilities to find solutions to make possible what seemed impossible before.

3D printed flight control

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Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as both a technology journalist and communications consultant. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he received his undergraduate degree. Specializing in covering the AM industry, he founded London-based 3D Printing Business Media Ltd. (now 3dpbm) which operates in marketing, editorial and market analysys&consultancy services for the additive manufacturing industry. 3dpbm publishes 3D Printing Business Directory, the largest global directory of companies related to 3DP, as well as several editorial websites, including 3D Printing Media Network and Replicatore. Since 2016 he is also a Senior Analyst for leading US-based firm SmarTech Analysis focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets.

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