Student flies human-powered "wing-flapping" plane

On both a green aviation and an innovation note, Yahoo! Green has recently reported that a Canadian university student has done what Leonardo da Vinci dreamed of: He piloted a human-powered “wing-flapping” plane called an ornithopter. The machine was actually sketched by da Vinci back in 1485 but it was  never actually built.

The ornithopter, nicknamed the Snowbird, was flown by Todd Reichert, an engineering student at the University of Toronto, for 19.3 seconds and covered 475.72 feet. The 92.59 pound machine is made from carbon fiber, balsa wood and foam and it maintained an average speed of 15.91 miles per hour.

The historic flight occurred on August 2, 2010 and apparently its the first officially confirmed flight in an ornithopter. Moreover, Todd and around 30 other students had worked on the aircraft for 4 years and Yahoo! Green noted that:

Todd endured a year-long exercise program in which he lost 18 lbs. to prep for the flight. Because the plane has a wingspan of 104 feet — which is comparable to that of a Boeing 737 — the pilot had to pedal with his legs all while pulling on the wings to flap at the same time. And he had to do it fast enough to fly!

Sadly though, the aircraft will probably never be flown again.

HPO Flight from U of T Engineering on Vimeo.

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One Response to Student flies human-powered "wing-flapping" plane

  1. Vincent September 27, 2010 at 07:14 #

    This video is simply beautiful… I have no idea how long this guy could have sustained the effort and if this form of flying is usable for more than a couple of seconds, but it just looks… beautiful.

    Do you know why it won't be flown anymore?

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