May 4, 2011
By Jill W. Tallman
Students from the University of Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering will test-fly a human-powered helicopter on May 11 in the hopes of winning a $250,000 prize from the American Helicopter Society (AHS) International.
Fifty graduate and undergraduate students have been working on the aircraft for two years. Called Gamera (after a giant flying turtle in Japanese monster movies), the aircraft has a rotor at each of the four ends of its X-shaped frame. The pilot, seated in a module suspended at the middle, powers the aircraft by a combination of hand and foot pedaling via chains, gears, and lightweight string to the rotors.
Gamera is constructed of balsa, foam, Mylar, carbon fiber, and other lightweight materials. With a pilot on board, it weighs just 210 pounds. If successful, the test flight also could capture a world record for human-powered helicopter flight with a female pilot.
The AHS’s Sikorsky Prize, named for Igor Sikorsky, will be awarded to a team that creates a vehicle that obtains all of its power from a human pilot and achieves a 60-second hover while remaining within a 10-meter square and momentarily reaching a three-meter altitude. In previous attempts, two vehicles have risen off the ground but failed to meet the competition criteria. No team has managed to win the prize since it was first announced in 1980, according to the University of Maryland.
AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who owns a Piper Cherokee 140.
Continuing significant orders to the training market shows that Piper Aircraft is making progress in its three-year plan to gain market share in that competitive arena.
L-3 Aviation Products plans to join the general aviation ADS-B world with its Lynx MultiLink Surveillance System. The new products will be “specifically tailored to fit the panel and budget of today’s general aviation aircraft and pilots,” said Larry Riddle, vice president of sales and marketing.
It was a big day for the newly resurrected Mooney International Corp. Mooney president Jerry Chen handed over the keys to the first airplane to roll out of the Kerrville, Texas, manufacturer’s newly reactivated factory site.
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