Human-powered ornithopter makes historic first flight

by Mark R

I’m sure you have at least heard an ornithopter before. It is essentially a flying machine that has wings that can flap like birds.

If you haven’t heard of it, perhaps you have seen it. For some reason, my mind has images of black and white films with people in machines with odd flapping wings that never get off the ground. I’m sure that when these old reels were filmed, it might have been tragic. After all, these guys wanted to be the Wright Brothers, but now their attempts are spliced together with a soundtrack that is plucked from America’s Funniest Home Videos.

Some guys at the University of Toronto have created the “Snowbird”, and it has a 105 foot wingspan, weighing 94 pounds. By the way, the pilot had to lose 18 pounds in order to fly this thing. The Snowbird managed to make it up in the air for about 19.3 seconds, and flew for 475 feet. It was only for 20 seconds, and can go at 16 miles per hour.

It’s hard to believe that mankind has actually achieved flying in the manner of the birds. It is a lot like Daedalus and Icarus, but the sun didn’t melt any wings. All of this happened on August 9th, and I don’t remember hearing much about it that day. That is a real shame, because this flight is historical. You can click on my Source if you want to see it fly.


5 reviews or comments

Rowgue Says: September 23, 2010 at 11:49 am

That’s not an ornithopter. It’s a glider that just has a useless flapping motion with the wingtips.

The wing flapping isn’t doing anything, you would get the same or better results with a plain old glider. It wasn’t human powered flight. Without the car that thing isn’t moving an inch. There is no generation of forward thrust and no ability to maintain lift. They relied on the car to tow it up to speed and the aerodynamics of the wings to get it airborne. Then he just glided to the ground, while uselessly flapping the wings.

If this gets officially recognized as the first ornithopter to fly, then that is a travesty for science and aviation.

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