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Gossamer Albatross

The Gossamer Albatross was a human-powered aircraft built by Paul MacCready. On June 12, 1979 it completed a successful crossing of the English Channel to win the second Kremer prize.

Gossamer Albatross.

Gossamer Albatross, close up of the cabin.

The aircraft was powered using pedals to drive an large two bladed propeller, piloted by professional cyclist Bryan Allen it completed the 35.8 km crossing in 2 hours 49 minutes, the fastest the craft travelled was 18 mph (29 km/hr) and the average altitude was no more than 15 metres.

The aircraft is of an unusual configuration, using a large horizontal stabilizer forward in a manner similar to the Wright brothers successful craft. The Gossamer Albatross was constructed using plastic over a carbon fibre frame, with the structure of the wings provided with expanded polystyrene ribs. The entire structure was then wrapped in a thin, transparent plastic (mylar). The empty weight of the structure was only 32 kg, although the gross weight for the Channel flight was almost 100 kg. To maintain the craft in the air it was designed with very long tapering wings, like those of a glider, allowing some of the flight to be undertaken without constant power.


Length: 10.36 metres
Span: 29.77 metres
Height: 4.88 metres

MacCready's team built two Albatrosses, the back-up plane was jointly tested as part of the
NASA Langley/Dryden flight research program in 1980.

The Gossamer Albatross was MacCready's second human powered aircraft. The first was the Gossamer Condor which won the first Kremer prize on August 23, 1977 by completing a figure '8' course. The follow-up to the Albatross was the solar-powered Gossamer Penguin in 1980.

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