August 19, 2011
By Alton K. Marsh
Photo credit: Brandon Bush, AB2Imagery
The National Aeronautic Association has certified the July 13 record for the University of Maryland’s human-powered helicopter called Gamera. It achieved liftoff and hovered for 11.4 seconds, setting U.S. records for flight duration and for flight duration by a female pilot. ( Watch a video of the flight.).
It was designed and built by graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Maryland's A. James Clark School of Engineering and piloted by biology student Judy Wexler.
The NAA has submitted its findings to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) for evaluation as world records in the same categories. The process may take two to three months. A May flight is also under evaluation by FAI.
Now the question is what to do next. Do you set another, better record, or do you just go for it all, represented in this case by the Sikorsky Prize. The American Helicopter Society’s Sikorsky Prize requires a human-powered helicopter to hover for a full minute, and to go as high as three meters, all while remaining in a 10-square-meter area. If you watch the video, you’ll see that the latest record-setting flight hit a chair after going airborne and drifting from its launch area.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
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