MacCready Gossamer Penguin

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Gossamer Penguin
Gossamer penguin.jpg
Test flight of the Gossamer Penguin
Role experimental aircraft
National origin United States
Manufacturer AeroVironment
Designer Paul MacCready
First flight May 18, 1979
Number built 1
Developed from Gossamer Albatross
Developed into Solar Challenger

The Gossamer Penguin was a solar-powered experimental aircraft created by Paul MacCready's AeroVironment.[1] MacCready, whose Gossamer Condor had made the first human-powered flight in 1977, told reporters two weeks in June, 1980 that "The first solar-powered flight ever made took place on May 18."[2] The testing ground was at Minter Field outside of Shafter, California. [2]

The Penguin was a 3/4 scale version of the Gossamer Albatross II, and had a 71 ft.(21.64 meter) wingspan and a weight, without pilot, of 68 lb (31 kg). The powerplant was an AstroFlight Astro-40 electric motor, driven by a 541 watt solar panel consisting of 3920 solar cells.[3]

Initial test flights were performed using a 28 cell NiCad battery pack instead of a panel. The test pilot for these flights was MacCready's 13-year-old son Marshall, who weighed 80 lb (36 kg).

The official pilot for the project was Janice Brown, a charter pilot with commercial, instrument, and glider ratings who weighed slightly less than 100 lb (45 kg). She flew the Penguin approximately 40 times before a 1.95 mi (3.14 km) public demonstration at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center on August 7, 1980.[4]


Data from MacCready, Lissaman, Morgan, and Burke 1983[1]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Wingspan: 71 ft 0 in (21.64 m)
  • Wing area: 297 sq ft (27.6 m2)
  • Empty weight: 68 lb (30.8 kg)
  • Fuel capacity: 28 x D type Nickel Cadmium (NiCad) cells or 3920 solar cells
  • Powerplant: 1 × Astro-Flight Astro-40 double brush DC electric motor with 133:1 reduction

See also[edit]

Related development


  1. ^ a b P.B. MacCready; P.B.S. Lissaman; W.R. Morgan; J.D. Burke (June 1983). "Sun-Powered Aircraft Designs". Journal of Aircraft. 20 (6): 487–493. doi:10.2514/3.44898. ISSN 0021-8669.
  2. ^ a b "Plane flies on sun power", by Terrance W. McGarry, United Press International report in the Spokane (WA) Chronicle, June 5, 1980, p12
  3. ^ Boucher, Robert, J. (June 11–13, 1984). History of Solar Flight (AIAA-84-1429). 20th Joint Propulsion Conference, Cincinnati, Ohio: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. doi:10.2514/6.1984-1429.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  4. ^ Solar-powered Gossamer Penguin in flight, USA: NASA.