It lasted only 4 seconds and reached an altitude of only 3-5 inches, but it was enough to make competitive cyclist Judy Wexler the first female to fly a human-powered helicopter.Video: University of Maryland
The University of Maryland's Gamera
made its first flight on May 12, in the campus gym, making its first step towards the goal of winning the American Helicopter Society's $250,000 Sikorsky Prize for the first human-powered helicopter to reach 3m while flying for at least 60sec and staying within a 10m square.
Thursday's hop was brief, and followed a series of unsucessful attempts marred by chain slippages and other breakages. But it was enough to give Wexler a place in history and, because it was witnessed by the official records-keeping National Aeronautic Association, it could be the first certified human-powered helicopter flight.Gamera
has four two-blade 42ft-diameter rotors on the ends of a 60ft-wide X-shaped frame at the center of which sits the pilot, powering the rotors via a combination of hand cranking and foot pedalling. Including pilot, the helicopter weighs barely 210lb and is built from balsa, foam, mylar, carbonfiber and other ultralight stuff.
Over in Europe, meanwhile, Solar Impulse launched its prototype solar-powered round-the-world aircraft, HB-SIA, on its first international flight this morning (May 13). The flight from its base at Payerne, Switzerland, to Brussels, Belgium, is expected to take 12 hours, with the 208ft-span, single-pilot aircraft expected to land at Brussels Airport around 21.00 local time.
Solar Impulse is taking the protoype to the Paris air show, where it plans to fly the aircraft every morning from 20 to 26 June, provided the weather cooperates. At least its electric motors won't disturb the conversations over coffee in the chalets.Photo: Solar Impulse