2nd of August 2010
It was on this day in aviation history that "Snowbird" flew for 19.3 seconds, covering a distance of 475 feet (145 meters), the best-ever performance for the aircraft
Snowbird in flight
Snowbird is a human-powered Ornithopter, an aircraft that flies by flapping its wings. Ever since men wanted to fly the flight of birds has been imitated in an attempt to fly. The team of AeroVelo of the University of Toronto built the snowbird. V2 Aviation looked at the human-powered helicopter they flew in this blog, published on the 13th of June 2021. As primary structure, they used axially wrapped carbon fibre reinforced plastic tubes. The wings and the cockpit are covered in Mylar. The drive system uses parts of a rowing bike and via lines move the wings. Static lines support the wing to prevent it from bending under its own weight. The total weight of the aircraft is only 44,747 kg (98.65 lb), very light compared to the pilots' weight (156 lbs / 70.8 kg).
To achieve flight, the Snowbird is first towed into the air by car. Once released, the target was to maintain both altitude and airspeed for as long as possible. Throughout October of 2009, and July and August of 2010, a total of 16 ground-handling tests and 52 flight tests were performed, during which the airframe, the controls and the pilot’s skills were all improved. Of the 52 test flights, 38 flights included an attempt at flapping and 8 recorded brief moments of sustained flight. The figure below shows the flight data from the aircraft’s best performance, recorded on August 2nd, 2010 at 6:35 am, altitude and airspeed were maintained for 19.3 seconds. A Youtube video of this flight can be viewed when clicking here. The record flight was observed by a certified official from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI)
On the last flight of 2 August 2010, a main driveline failed. Fatigue wear was noted on many components, it was decided to end flights for the season. The aircraft currently resides in the Main Hangar of the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, in Ottawa, Canada.