In what may well be one of the last aviation firsts, a University of Toronto graduate student has fulfilled an ancient dream that dates back at least to the Greek legend of Daedalus and Icarus — human-powered flight.
FOR THE RECORD:
Human-powered flight: An article in the Sept. 25 Section A said that a Canadian graduate student had succeeded in making the first human-powered flight. The article should have said that it was the first human-powered flight achieved by flapping wings. —
In an ungainly wing-flapping craft, or ornithopter, built by students at the university, Todd Reichert made history last month by sustaining both altitude and airspeed for 19.3 seconds, traveling a little more than 145 yards at an average speed of about 16 mph.
The flight, conducted at sunrise Aug. 2 at the Great Lakes Gliding Club in Tottenham, Ontario, was witnessed by a vice president of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, which certifies aviation records. Reichert's time and distance are expected to be recognized as world records for human-powered flight at a meeting next month of the federation.
The craft — called the Snowbird because some of the first ground tests were conducted last winter on a snow-covered runway — has a wingspan of 105 feet. That's nearly as long as the wingspan of a modern-day Boeing 737 jetliner. But because it is constructed of balsa wood, foam and carbon fiber, it weighs only 94 pounds — less then all the pillows normally carried by a commercial 737, Reichert said.