When it come to flight, there aren’t a lot of “firsts” out there still to be accomplished. One of the great ones, though, pondered over by inventors and flight enthusiasts for over a hundred years, has been a human-powered ornithopter. And now, thanks to a Canadian engineering student, that dream can now be crossed off the list. Instead of blissfully dreaming about it, you can now watch it on video.
An ornithopter is an aircraft that flaps its wings like a bird to sustain forward momentum and some lift. While it’s been theorized plenty of times, and tried multiple times over the years, it was slotted into the “maybe” category once the Wright brothers showed us that there was a better way. While plenty of ornithopter’s have been created in the past, none of them have been successful at sustained flight. Until now.
Engineering student Todd Reichert is 28 years old, and studies for his PhD at the University of Toronto’s Institute for Aerospace Studies. He’s successfully created, and flown, what he’s calling The Snowbird. The flight is a record breaking one, as he managed to sustain about 16 MPH, and flew at a height of 475 feet. The Snowbird has a huge wingspan, measuring nearly to a Boeing 737, but they managed to cut the weight to only 94 pounds. Due to weight limitations, Reichert had to drop 18lbs of his own weight just to make sure that the ‘bird would fly.
As you can see in the video, there’s a tow vehicle that pulls The Snowbird forward until it successfully lifts off the ground. Once Reichert and his invention are in the air, he begins to use the pedals within the cabin to flap the wings, which work in such a graceful manner it’s hard to pull your eyes away from. As Reichert points out, “this represents one of the last of the aviation firsts.” Too true, but it’s great to see it accomplished nonetheless. Check out the video below to watch it for yourself.