Goal: To set a world record for the most distance traveled in 1 day by human power in the air

Adventure Status: Not Completed

Read the Blog: 24 Hour Air Distance Record Blog



Human Powered Airplane Design by Nick Hein

In 1977, Dr. Paul MacCready and his team designed and built the Gossamer Condor which became the first human-powered airplane that capable of controlled and sustained flight. In 1979, MacCready built the 70-lb Gossamer Albatros which successfully flew 26 miles across the English Channel in a time of 2 hours, 49 minutes setting a world record for the most distance flown by human power.

Eleven years later MIT engineers were able to build a 70 pound airplane named Daedalus that set two records simultaneously. It flew the farthest of any human-powered airplane (74 miles) and stayed in the air for 3 hours and 54 minutes. The pilot was Kanellos Kanellopoulos, an Olympic cyclist.


Critical Power 3 human powered airplane concept

My quest to set a human powered flight record is still very much in the concept phase. I’ve been working with human powered airplane designer Nick Hein and Velair designer and builder Peter Frank. We’ve been brain storming on some pretty cool ideas for a human powered airplane design, and various ideas as to exactly what this challenge could be: 24 hour human powered flight record, a distance record, endurance record, altitude record, or even the development of a ground effects vehicle. There are many ideas, and I am open to any possibility at this early stage.

Designing and building a human powered airplane is a daunting challenge! An option that I am considering is to bring a HPA over from Germany. Velair was built by Peter Frank in 1989 and requires at least 255 watts to maintain flight for at least 3 hours which is required to break the impossible 115 km MIT Daedalus record. 255 watts for 3 hours is beyond my physical ability.

I think that a 24 hour human powered flight distance record is a challenge that is feasible. I have spoken to Executive Vice President Al Krause from the IHPVA and Chris Roper, the IHPVA Vice President for Air records. They have agreed to set up a new record category that would be similar in spirit to the existing 24 hour human powered distance records for both land and water. Since accumulated flight distance in 24 hours is counted, I would be allowed to land and take-off as many times in 24 hours as I wanted – exactly the same rules that allowed for pit stops during my 24 HPV record in Critical Power as I made my way around the 1/4 mile oval race track in Eureka California, and the 24 hour human powered boat record in Whitefish where I circled a 5.79 km loop on Whitefish Lake in Montana.

Of course, the clock would continue to tick during the stops and only miles of actual flight would be counted (wheels off the ground). I’m thinking that a dry lake bed or the salt flats would work for this. Even better would be a frozen lake in the winter near sea level. I could use some sort of light weight skis. The advantage with this approach is density altitude – the air is much thicker at sea level when it is cold and the power required for lift is reduced.

So basically, I’m still in the very early stages here. Any ideas would be very welcome.