Trans-substantial Catholics

Watch this. What are the priests doing? Catholic Litmus Test If you are Catholic, then I hope for the sake of your soul you said he is welcoming Christ bodily into the world. If you didn’t you aren’t looking too […]

Poor Hanno

According to the pop-psychologist-pseudo-science writer Malcolm Gladwell in his magnum lite-opus, the Tipping Point we as a species need risk takers. Individuals who are willing to put it all on the line in pursuit of a goal will, if they […]

Intelligence and Happiness?

A while ago, the Inquisition pondered the nature of intelligence, and whether a certain outlook or attendant mental abilities are guides to or from happiness. This has been obliquely in the news of late…

Buried by the Sea

Its odd. Most graveyards in Connemara appear to be near water, if not actually right on the coast. Why? West Galway, or Connemara, has a lot of unused space. Admittedly, much of the land Connemara is industrially and agriculturally useless, […]

Cycling Two Abreast

Cycling two abreast in Ireland is legal, a protected practice, and it is safer.

Indoors / Outdoors (Defuse)

A talk given by The Inquisition at Defuse, on Wednesday 7th November 2012, as part of Designweek in Dublin, Ireland

Nürnburg’s Extra Bombs

Nürnburg got ripped to shreds by Bomber Harris’ boys. By how much appears to be open to debate.

Law & Morality

The preface to HLA Hart’s publication of his 1961 lecture series on the meeting of law and morality is as prevalent today as it ever was.

Foy – The Bodiless Head

A bodiless head is revered as being Saint Foy, who died a cruel death.

Coffee Haters

There are people out there who pretend to like coffee. Coffee Haters – you have been warned.

False Flags 2

False flag, covert ops by Americans against Americans? Sounds crazy, and so it was deemed.

Plastic 55 Years Ago

55 years ago Roland Barthes considered the importance of plastic and what it meant, as a substance and a symbol.

Cesare Borgia’s Party

The Pope, his son and fifty prostitutes – Cesare Borgia’s party.

Marriage – A Potted History

Marriage is thought by many to be a fixed rite, one which is immovable and inflexible. The truth is that it has not always seemed so…

Blinking Morse

The world was shocked when a victim of torture started blinking morse. The story of a US aviator captured in Vietnam.


Synecdoche is a powerful, expressive linguistic device

The Inquisition by Ronan McDonnell - Contents Page
The Inquisition by Ronan McDonnell - Semper Quarens - Always Looking

Human-powered Flight

The Albatross mid-test-flight at Drysden Air Centre

The Albatross mid-test-flight at Drysden Air Centre

The Gossamer Albatross might well be the coolest bicycle ever. Aside from having a name that could be confused with being an exclusive, designer condom, this bike was a plane. Pedalled by Bryan Allen in 1979, it flew 23 miles across the English Channel to Boulogne. Thirty years later, it is still an amazing feat.

It wasn’t the first human powered flight. That honour went to Gabriel Poulin, in 1921, when he won 10,000-franc Prix Peugeot, the first prize for human powered flight at Longchamps racecourse. Another notable mention here would be MIT’s Daedalus which came very close to flying from Crete to Santorini in 1988. Much like its Grecian namesake it met a watery demise.

The cold, hard facts: 34ft long and 16ft high, it had a wingspan of 98ft. The wing area was 488ft². Its empty weight was 70lbs, and its maximum measured speed was 18mph. But who cares? Its a flying bicycle.

The Albatross was created by Dr Paul MacCready, whose company, AeroVironment, is the market leader in researching clean energy solutions for sustainable flight and transportation. Mc Cready went on to produce a solar powered variant, the Penguin, which flew from Paris to the UK in 1981. These days MacCready may be best known for his unmanned solar aircraft produced for Nasa – the Pathfinder series. These have raised the possibility of infinite flight as their batteries can retain sufficient charge to fly through the night.

Nasa's solar-powered Pathfinder series, developed by MacCready.

Nasa's solar-powered Pathfinder series, developed by MacCready.

Variants 1: Human-powered Helicopters

These must be one of the singularly most unimpressive areas of human endeavour. The physics are just too unfeasible to make such flight worth it. As with all boffin-baited challenges, this does not stop people trying.

Although the Sikorsky Prize has not yet been awarded the California Polytechnic State University Da Vinci III, flew for 7.1 seconds and reached a height of 20 cm in 1989. The prize will be awarded to the first entry to reach an altitude of 3 meters (10 feet) during a flight lasting at least 60 seconds, while remaining in an area 10 meters square (36 feet square); so you can see it is completely pointless.

MIT's Daedalus Humna-powered aircraft

MIT's Daedalus Humna-powered aircraft

Variants 2; Others

There are, or have been a bunch of others:

  • Poulin’s Avietta
  • AERSP 404H
  • Bossi-Bonomi Pedaliante
  • DUT Icarus 001
  • Gossamer Condor (The Albatross’ Precursor)
  • MIT Daedalus
  • PSU Zephyrus

Bonus Material

Paul MacCready talks at TED

Fiddlers Green – lightweight aviation enthusiasts
AeroVironment NASA page on the Albatross
NASA page on Daedalus
Royal Aeronautic Society

This article was posted by on Monday, November 30th, 2009 at 18:56.
It is archived in Bicycles, History, Science, Sport, Travel and tagged , , , , , , .

Comments are closed.

Rummage Through Inquisition's Archives

The Index