Monday, November 13, 2006


One of the last remaining aeronautical breakthroughs occured recently. I heard about this story on The World podcast, a technology based weekly update made in collaboration with the BBC, WGBH Public Radio Boston and Public Radio international.

Like so many breakthrough discoveries they are so often down to the relentless passion and dedication of a few individuals that seem to persevere no matter what. A wonderful example of someone continuing to fight against all the odds and achieve their dream is in the case of Dr James DeLaurier of the University of Toronto's institute for Aerospace Studies. who for his entire career had made it his goal to prove that it was possible to create an ornithopter. Together with the students of his university classes (of which saw many unsuccessful prototypes and failed attempts), he finally realised his vision.

He set out to prove that despite successul flights to the moon, hypersonic flight and travelling around the world without refueling, that the unfulfilled promise of ornithopter flight was possible. That is to say, a plane that it propelled by flapping wings, much like a giant bird.

After more than 15 years fo research and failed attempts the record was finally broken.

July 8th 2006, saw the first successful flight of an ornithopter. Reaching a speed of just over 50 mph, the ornithopter took off and flew for 14 seconds, travelling 1/3 km distance in the process. The momentus flight ended in an abrupt fashion, rolling left and collapsing into the runway in dramatic fashion.

One wonders if DeLaurier or his partner Harris will get the same level of recognition as the Wright bothers, or if their design for planes will get much further off the ground than their first ornithopter. One thing is for sure, and that this is a wonderful story and an inspiration to everyone to keep on plugging away in pursuit of your vision and dreams.

Check out video of the historic flight and images of the ground breaking plane here.