Daedalus and Icarus Redux
A few years later, MacCready’s Gossamer Albatross flew the English Channel to win a £100,000 prize. And in 1988, a Greek pilot/athlete nearly duplicated the mythic flight of Daedalus and Icarus from Crete to Greece powered only by his own energy.
Kanellos Kanellopoulus flew 15 feet over the waves of the Aegean Sea for more than four hours, covering 115 kilometers. When he was within 10 yards of the beach, a gust of wind struck the tail, and the craft splashed down into the ocean waves, failing to reach its destination by a matter of seconds.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Some of the futuristic planes using the most cutting-edge materials and designs look strangely familiar. Just as the Wright brothers did in their early airplane designs, designers of next-generation airplanes are putting the horizontal tail up front, and moving the propeller to the rear of the plane in a “pusher" configuration. The Gossamer Condor even used piano wires to warp the wingtips to bank the wings, the precise design the Wright brothers used. The Gossamer Condor and the Wrights’ Flyer now hang side-by-side in the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum.
If you’re not convinced that human-powered aircraft represent an advance in design and construction, consider this statement by the designer of one human-powered plane:4 We have an airplane that can be picked up in one hand, flies on the power needed to run a lightbulb, and has the wingspan of a commercial aircraft.”
By the Book
Canards are wing surfaces that are positioned in the front of the airplane but serve the same stabilizing purpose as the tail surfaces of conventional designs. The word “canard" comes from the French for “duck."