Flapping-wing Aircraft Successfully Flies

TORONTO, Sept. 22 (UPI) — A Canadian-made, human-powered aircraft with flapping wings made history by becoming the first craft of its kind to stay aloft continuously, its builders say.

The University of Toronto’s human-powered ornithopter “Snowbird” flew Aug. 2 in Tottenham, Ontario, witnessed by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, the world-governing body for air sports and aeronautical world records, a university release said.


An aircraft that could fly by mimicking the flapping of birds’ wings has been the dream of engineers since Leonardo da Vinci sketched the first human-powered ornithopter in 1485.

Under the power and piloting of Todd Reichert, an engineering doctoral candidate at the university’s Institute for Aerospace Studies, the wing-flapping Snowbird sustained both altitude and airspeed for 19.3 seconds, and covered a distance of 158 yards at an average speed of 16 miles per hour.

“The Snowbird represents the completion of an age-old aeronautical dream,” Reichert said.

“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.”

The Snowbird has a wing span of 105 feet, comparable to that of a Boeing 737, but weighs less than all the pillows on an airliner — just 94 pounds.

And Reichert lost 18 pounds of body weight over the summer to prepare for flying the aircraft.

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Categorized | Aviation, Birds, Engineering, Other
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