Canadian student Todd Reichert, a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto’s Institute of Aerospace Studies, has made aviation history by becoming the first person to ever fly a human-powered flapping-wing aircraft continuously.
The world-record flight took place Aug. 2 at the Great Lakes Gliding Club in Tottenham, Ont. and was witnessed by the vice-president (Canada) of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale – the world body governing air sports and aeronautical world records.
The human-powered ornithopter – named the Snowbird – weighs just over 42 kilograms of carbon fibre, foam and balsa wood, with a wing span of 32 metres.
Unlike the legendary Icarus who used his hands and arms to power his wings, Reichert flew the ornithopter by pedaling with his feet. This pulled down the wings attached to a system of pulleys and lines. “The aerodynamics and the stored elasticity of the wing spar would bring the wing back up. The down stroke was the human-powered part – that’s how birds and bats fly,” explained his advisor and Professor Emeritus at University of Toronto, James D. DeLaurier.
DeLaurier worked with Reichert on the human-powered flapping-wing plane, along with another graduate student, Cameron Robertson, who was the chief structural engineer, and a team of other students and volunteers.
Leonardo Da Vinci, who sketched the first human-powered ornithopter in 1485, would be proud.
You can view the continuation (Part 2 – 10) of the video at: U of T Engineering