First human-powered aircraft achieves sustained flight

Published: Thursday, September 23, 2010, 11:16 [IST]
 

Washington, Sep 23 (ANI): First human-powered aircraft with flapping wings made aviation history by flying continuously for almost 20 seconds.

University of Toronto's "Snowbird" performed its record-breaking flight on August 2 at the Great Lakes Gliding Club in Tottenham, Ont., witnessed by the vice-president (Canada) of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI), the world-governing body for air sports and aeronautical world records.

The official record claim was filed this month, and the FAI is expected to confirm the ornithopter's world record at its meeting in October.

For centuries engineers have attempted such a feat, ever since Leonardo Da Vinci sketched the first human-powered ornithopter in 1485.

But under the power and piloting of Todd Reichert, an Engineering PhD candidate at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS), the wing-flapping device sustained both altitude and airspeed for 19.3 seconds, and covered a distance of 145 metres at an average speed of 25.6 kilometres per hour.

"The Snowbird represents the completion of an age-old aeronautical dream. Throughout history, countless men and women have dreamt of flying like a bird under their own power, and hundreds, if not thousands have attempted to achieve it. This represents one of the last of the aviation firsts," said lead developer and project manager Reichert.

The Snowbird weighs just 94 lbs. and has a wing span of 32 metres 105 feet)-

Although its wingspan is comparable to that of a Boeing 737, the Snowbird weighs less than all of the pillows on board.

Pilot Reichert lost 18 lbs. of body weight this past summer to facilitate flying the aircraft.

With sustainability in mind, Aerospace Engineering graduate students of UTIAS learned to design and build lightweight and efficient structures.

The research also promoted "the use of the human body and spirit," said Reichert.

"The use of human power, when walking or cycling, is an efficient, reliable, healthy and sustainable form of transportation. Though the aircraft is not a practical method of transport, it is also meant to act as an inspiration to others to use the strength of their body and the creativity of their mind to follow their dreams," he added.

"This achievement is the direct result of Todd Reichert's dedication, perseverance, and ability and adds to the already considerable legacy of Jim DeLaurier, UTIAS's great ornithopter pioneer. It also reflects well on the rigorous education Todd received at the University of Toronto. We're very proud of Todd and the entire team for this outstanding achievement in aviation history," said Professor David Zingg, Director of UTIAS. (ANI)


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