Wing-Flapping Plane Launches New Milestone in Human Aviation

in Science & Tech by

TORONTO – The first ever human-powered aircraft flight has been credited to a Canadian university student.

Engineering graduate, Todd Reichert, managed to fly the aircraft under his own power for almost 20 seconds at the Great Lakes Gliding Club in Tottenham, Ont.

The PhD candidate at the University of Toronto flew the 42 kg plane “The Snowbird” at an average speed of 25.6 km/h. The total distance covered by the 32 m long wingspan carbon fiber plane in its 19.3 second long flight was 145 meters.

Reichert underwent a tough training regime in order to lose 10 kg and build up muscle in preparation for the flight.

Commenting on this milestone achievement, Reichert said “Our original goal was to complete this sort of, original aeronautical dream, to fly like a bird. The idea was to fly under your own power by flapping your wings.”

He also added that group had kept the record secret for almost two whole months in order to finalize data.

The event was witnessed by a member of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) and will be officially entered into the record books next month by the governing body.

Reichert and fellow student Cameron Robertson had worked on the human-power aircraft project for almost four years, collaborating with as many as 30 students from countries like France and the Netherlands.

Asked about the experience, the university student said “To be honest, I don’t think it’s really set in yet that I’m the one who has been successful. I was pushing with everything I had. When I finally let go and landed, I was hit with a breadth of excitement. It was pretty wild.”

Reichert admitted that the aircraft will likely never be flown again, but he will attempt to get it into the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa.

HPO The Snowbird from U of T Engineering on Vimeo.

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Photo source: HPO Project on Flickr | Official website