We’ve all seen the ridiculous videos of human-powered aircraft, some from the early 20th century, some from episodes of MTV’s Jackass. They universally fail: The human body is, we have come to believe, just too heavy, weak, and ill-equipped to power an aircraft by itself.
But Todd Reichert, an engineering Ph.D candidate at the prestigious University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies, designed and piloted this amazing aircraft that may just set a little flutter in your heart. Maybe we can fly, just like R. Kelly believes.
The vehicle weighs only 94 pounds, made of carbon fiber and balsa wood (!), but sports a wingspan of 105 feet, very nearly that of a Boeing 737. The craft, says Pop Sci, requires an SUV for takeoff, but the ornithopter then sustained flight for what’s almost certain to be confirmed as a world record: 475 feet at 16mph, with a total air time of 19.3 seconds.
This flight was monitored by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, the body that monitors and awards world records in flight, and the aircraft is expected to be confirmed as the new world record holder in October.
Sure, it was only 19.3 seconds, and it’s not really sustainable unless you’re Lance Armstrong. But tell me you didn’t feel a little flutter of awe and amazement as the massive wings began flapping. It’s more than a little bit majestic, right?