The MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Department's Daedalus was a human-powered aircraft that, on 23 April 1988, flew a distance of 71.5 mi (115.11 km) in 3 hours, 54 minutes, from Iraklion on the island of Crete to the island of Santorini. The flight holds official FAI world records for distance and duration for human-powered aircraft.
The craft was named after the mythological inventor of aviation, Daedalus, and was inspired by the Greek myth of Daedalus' escape from Crete using manmade wings.
There were actually three aircraft constructed:
- Light Eagle (originally Michelob Light Eagle): a 42 kg (92 lb) prototype.
- Daedalus 87: Crashed during testing at Rogers Dry Lake (NASA Dryden Flight Research Center) on 17 February 1988, and was rebuilt as a backup.
- Daedalus 88: Flew from Crete to just off the beach on Santorini.
Both Daedalus 87 and Daedalus 88' weighed 31 kg (69 lb).
All three aircraft were constructed at the MIT Lincoln Lab Flight Facility at Hanscom Field outside Boston, Massachusetts, by a team of undergraduate students, faculty, and recent graduates of MIT.
Light Eagle (known to the flight crew as MLE, or Emily) set a closed-course distance record with Glen Tremml as the pilot, as well as straight-line, closed-course, and duration women's records with Lois McCallin as pilot. These record flights took place at Edwards AFB (NASA Dryden Flight Research Center) in January, 1987.
Daedalus 87 was the first of the two Daedalus airplanes constructed, and was flight tested extensively at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center in California. During flight testing, Daedalus 87 was damaged in a crash caused by spiral divergence, with the rudder not able to supply enough control authority to recover from a disturbance-initiated right turn. The aircraft suffered damage to the right wing, fuselage, and propeller. Daedalus 87 was repaired and returned to service to act as a backup airplane to Daedalus 88.
The final aircraft in the MIT Daedalus series, Daedalus 88, was used in the flight from Crete. Pieces of Daedalus 88 are now in storage at the Smithsonian's restoration facility.
Both Daedalus aircraft were constructed with a framework of carbon fiber tubes. Airfoil shape for the wing and tail elements was maintained with a thin polystyrene foam leading edge, polystyrene ribs, and a Kevlar trailing edge. Wing skin was Mylar plastic of approximately 0.3 mil thickness. The bottom portion of the fuselage and majority of the pilot seat were made of Kevlar as well. Horizontal and vertical stabilizers were "all-moving" control surfaces.
The record-setting flight of Daedalus 88 had as pilot Olympic cyclist Kanellos Kanellopoulos of Greece. The flight began at the main airport of Iraklion, on Crete, with a horizontal launch under the pilot's own power, as governed by FAI rules. During the flight, the Daedalus flew primarily between 15 and 30 feet in altitude, and was accompanied by several escort vessels. The speed of the flight was helped by a tailwind, but this also made a head-on landing approach to the narrow beach hazardous, especially with crowds of spectators on the sand. The pilot maneuvered the aircraft to land more into the wind and parallel with the length of the beach. As the right wing extended over the black sand beach, the heat rising from the beach lifted that wing, turning the aircraft back towards the sea. This effect prevented the pilot from getting the whole aircraft onto the beach.
The flight ended in the water (7 meters from Perissa Beach on Santorini, according to the official record), when increasing gusty winds caused a torsional failure of the tail boom. Lacking control, the airplane then pitched nose-up, and another gust caused a failure of the main wing spar. The pilot swam to shore.
- Dorsey, Gary (1990). The Fullness of Wings: The Making Of A New Daedalus ISBN 0-670-82444-5
- NASA's page about Daedalus
- FAI human powered flight world records
- Daedalus drawing: TIF, PDF
- Light Eagle (Daedalus prototype): TIF , PDF
- John McIntyre, Man's Greatest Flight, AeroModeller, August 1988 (in files of Royal Aeronautical Society Human Powered Aircraft Group) (accessed Nov. 13 2012)
- NASA Dryden Daedalus Human Powered Aircraft page (accessed Nov. 13 2012)
- Chrysalis Human-Powered Airplane: It Flew the First Time Out, Royal Aeronautical Society Human Powered Aircraft Group (accessed Nov. 13 2012)
- http://www.humanpoweredflying.propdesigner.co.uk/html/daedalus.html Royal Aeronautical Society Human Powered Aircraft Group (accessed Nov. 13 2012)
- Olympics at Sports-Reference.com > Athletes > Kanellos Kanellopoulos
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to MIT Daedalus.|