Human-Powered Helo Goes Back To The Drawing Board
It was the latest attempt at the American Helicopter Society's
$20,000 Igor I. Sikorsky Human-Powered Helicopter Competition. It
was not, however, the winning attempt.
A group of students from the University of British Columbia set
out to prove that a strong cyclist could keep a helicopter-like
vehicle airborne, guide it and land it. Their contraption was,
well, odd, to say the least. It had two sets of rotors and wings as
big as those on a Boeing 737.
Sadly, the contraption never got off the ground. Canadian Press
reports test pilot Peter Hudson -- a marathon runner -- climbed
into the cockpit Tuesday at the university's Thunderbird stadium
and... well, started peddling.
Now, project leader Mike Georgallis was anything but
Pollyannaish as he was getting the machine ready for its first
flight. "Will the machine in fact fly before it breaks or will it
break before it flies?" he asked. The answer was forthcoming.
Not long after the rotors began to turn, the twin rotor blades
became entangled. A piece of foam flew from one wings' leading
edge. The bicycle chain broke. Enough was enough.
"At very low RPM when we're starting up, it's really difficult
to keep it stable because the rotor system is swaying the entire
machine from side to side," Georgallis told the CP. "This loosens
up one side of the chain and it comes off and all of a sudden you
have one wing producing lift, the other one not producing
Oh, the agony. Maybe it was the wind? Yeah, that's the
"There's not an easy fix here," Georgallis told the CP. "One of
the issues that should be done is flying indoors." He suggested BC
Georgallis's team has spent the past six years working on the
Thunderbird aircraft. Project Thunderbird will continue, they
promise. After all, one student quipped, if it worked the first
time, it wouldn't be any fun.