Gossamer Condor

Gossamer Condor – Paul MacCready conceived, designed, and built the Gossamer Condor, the first successful human- powered plane. MacCready went from building model airplanes as a child to earning a Ph.D. in aeronautics from the California Institute of Technology in 1952. Inspired by his theoretical knowledge of the soaring patterns of birds, his Gossamer Condor made history in 1977 by completing the one-mile- long, figure-eight route required to win the Kremer Prize of approximately $95,000 for the first flight of a human-powered airplane.

The Gossamer Condor has earned a place of honor near the Wright brothers’ plane in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

What’s the problem?
Design and build an aircraft to complete the one-mile- long, figure-eight route required to win the Kremer Prize of approximately $95,000 for the first flight of a human-powered airplane.

  • Ask – What kind of aircraft would be big and strong enough to hold the weight of a person? How could this aircraft be light enough for it to be human-powered?
  • Imagine – Birds are capable of long distance flight. Their bodies and bones are extremely light and strong. There are man-made materials that are similarly strong and light.
  • Design, Build – MacCready used balsa wood, cardboard, Mylar plastic, and piano wire to construct this plane, which has a 96-foot wingspan but weighs only 70 pounds.
  • Improve

That’s engineering

  • Mylar is often used to generically refer to polyester film or plastic sheet. However, it is a registered trademark owned by Dupont Tejjin Films for a specific family of plastic sheet products made from the resin Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET).

Engineering ideas

  • Mylar, soaring