Machine Design

What's all the flap about?

Aeronautical engineer James DeLaurier's oneseat ornithopter recently flapped its way into the air (with a boost from a small jet engine), climbed about 3 ft above the ground, and sustained flight for 1,200 ft and 14 sec.

Ornithopter beats Wright Brothers' first flight by 2 sec.


The craft returned to the runway and tipped over onto its nose, damaging the gear, apparently the result of crosswinds. Still beating the Wright Brothers' first flight by 2 sec was good enough for DeLaurier.

"It's a perfect day," he said. "If I have the big one now, I'll die happy." The pilot, Jack Sanderson, was fine. DeLaurier says the ornithopter will likely be repaired and then retired to a museum. To fly farther, it would need bigger wings and roll-control modification, he said. And that would require a bigger source of money.

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