Rescued from abandonment in Cambridge by Bill Brooks, chairman of the RAeS Human Powered Aircraft Committee, this aircraft weighing in at 35kg and with a 25metre wingspan has been restored to its former glory by Bill’s firm, P&M Aviation in Marlborough.
An initial inspection of the craft, found that it was still in fantastic condition, in spite of a few seized bearings and some defunct electronics. This particular aircraft is fly-by-wire, controlled by large model servos. This particular concept helps with rigging and derigging, as only the wires need to be plugged in.
To begin the resurrection, a team of experts specialising in designing, building and flying microlights was assembled as the rebuild began to take shape. Due to the limitations of lateral control of Human Powered Aircraft, such as poor spiral divergence, it was decided, on the advice of one the planes two original designers, John McIntrye, to increase dihedral and fly Airglow purely on rudder/elevator power.
After rejection at Wroughton, permission was gained to operate at Kemble using the Kemble Microlight Club’s hangar. And so, on September 29th, using the fabulous late summer weather, the craft was carefully towed to check the trim, after which the flight was able to reach heights of up to 20ft. The aircraft was nicely stable laterally with the increased dihedral. With the tip sections off, the aircraft was squeezed safely into the hangar to be stored overnight.
At roughly 5.30 am the next morning, with some transmission issues resolved, and Robin Kraike pedalling, the aircraft was launched with 2 runners on the flying wires and a pusher on the keel. After 50ft or so it lifted off and accelerated away, the wings taking up a majestic curve as it progressed above the runway, tracked by a few 40 something runners. The second flight proved to be even more successful, 1 minute and 5 seconds and to a height approximating 15ft.
It was then decided enough was enough and the testing was terminated for the day as the airport was opening for business.
With the progress in modern radio control equipment being so reliable, cost effective, and light and compact in design, considerations are being given to flying by radio, which would allow in flight trim adjustment and potentially arms plus legs propulsion.
It has been found that flying a human powered aircraft such as Airglow is actually quite practical in wind speeds of up to 10mph. As well as being an interesting challenge from both an engineerign and sporting perspective, it is entertaining in it’s own right.
Looking forward, the RAeS Human Powered Committee are hugely excited by the prospect of the Icarus Cup looming on the horizon. Due to take place at Lasham Airfield from 13th -22nd July next year, this event run by the Human Powered Aircraft Committee aims to commemorate the anniversary of the first UK human powered flight.
It is hoped this event will revitalise interest in the field of human powered flight as a participant sport practised by groups around the country.