Saturday, November 12, 2011

Human-powered flight recreated for 50th anniversary. (UK)

A flight has taken place at a Hampshire airfield to mark the 50th anniversary of the UK's first human-powered flight.

On 9 November, 1961, gliding instructor Derek Piggott took off from Lasham Airfield in a pedal-powered aircraft.

Flying Southampton University's Man Powered Aircraft, (SUMPAC) he covered a distance of 64m (210ft) and climbed to a height of 1.8m (6ft).

With the SUMPAC now a museum exhibit, the commemorative flight took place in human-powered aircraft, Airglow.

Organised by members of the Royal Aeronautical Society's Human Powered Flight Group, pilot Robin Kraike made the flight early on Saturday.

Mr Kraike who flew the plane for about 1 mile (1.6km) said: "It's like doing a 800 metre sprint."

"It's a very busy place in the cockpit - you have to divide your body into two halves, the top part doing the delicate part of flying the plane and the bottom half you're going like the clappers to deliver the power."

Now aged 88, SUMPAC's former test pilot, Derek Piggott MBE, watched the commemorative flight from the airfield.

He recalled meeting the students who designed and built the original single-seat nylon covered craft which spanned 24.4m (80ft) 50 years ago.

He said: "It all started with the students coming across to Lasham trying to find somewhere to fly their aeroplane. I was interested immediately, so we organised it."

He built up his fitness to power the pedal aircraft by running around the airfield.

"I wasn't a cyclist, so I was very lucky to get all the flying in it, we were going to train an Olympic cyclist to fly it but we never managed to teach him to fly."

Following a crash in 1963, the fragile SUMPAC was retired from flying and placed on display at Southampton's Solent Sky Museum.

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