August 2nd marked the first human-powered flight of an ornithopter. Wait, a what?
It’s pronounced awr-nuh-thop-ter, and it’s an aircraft propelled by flapping wings, like a bird. First sketched by Leonardo da Vinci in 1485, people have been trying to improve on his design–and build a working model–for centuries. A group at the University of Toronto’s Institute of Aerospace Studies made their own design, and in August, they successfully flew the first human-powered ornithopter. The pilot, a PhD candidate named Todd Reichert, sat in a tiny cockpit pedaling furiously to make the wings gracefully flap.
Reichert explained the world’s obsession with this strange machine:
“It’s the original aeronautical dream, people first looking at birds saying, ‘I want to do that, I want to flap my wings like a bird,’” said Reichert, laughing as he recounted the four years it took for his project to take flight. [Winnipeg Free Press]