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Bang Goes The Theory's human-powered plane experiment: The results

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Jem Stansfield Jem Stansfield | 10:06 UK time, Tuesday, 24 April 2012

When invisible forces suddenly pluck you off the ground it's a massive shock, even if you've just spent weeks trying to make it happen.

And up until that moment I was far more worried about dealing with the consequences of failure than those of success.

But as I started to get a good view of the tops of people's heads and registered the weird, unexpected near silence of flight I realised I had but an instant to figure out how to control and power a brand new aeroplane.

When myself and my two mates Chris Hill and Jim Milner start designing and building the more extreme stuff for Bang Goes The Theory I know I'm probably going to be the test pilot.

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Watch Jem's pedalling power test

In some ways it's great but you don't half feel the responsibility.

Often the first chance we get to properly test a completed item is the day the cameras arrive. And I know that all the effort that we've put into it will mean very little if I don't somehow get it to perform on the day.

Designing and making a plane that works on pedal power took the most amount of resources we'd ever put into a job.

Before dawn on the day of our attempted flight even the boss of the programme was at Lasham airfield along with the camera crew.

There was also a crowd of pilots, photographers and eminent aero engineers who very much liked the look of the machine we'd constructed.

But Lasham is a working airfield and I knew that we only had a two hour window to try getting our plane airborne before the real planes started to come in and we had to stop.

If nothing happened in that time all we'd have really managed was to build a very odd looking bicycle.

Almost everything else we'd ever built for Bang Goes The Theory were things that I'd been thinking about for months or sometimes years until I felt they were ready.

In all that time however, an image of a one man aircraft that had to be pedalled into the sky had never once crossed my mind - until this series when Alex our producer planted it in there very firmly.

Also whilst filming at the new Olympic velodrome in Stratford for episode six there were a bunch of interviews with British Olympians being played out on the big screen behind us.

Over half of them said that the superpower they would most like to have was to be able to fly.

The thing is by then I knew that they all actually had enough muscle power to do it they just needed someone to build the correct exoskeleton - and that's what we were on to. (In some ways it's a plane but in many ways it really is just the exoskeleton a human being needs to put on in order to give them the power of flight.)

Back at the airfield with me in the cockpit, the first attempts didn't look good at all.

Jem Stansfield on the plane at dawn with his Bang team running beside him

Jem and the Bang team start the experiment at dawn

Although the early morning was almost as still as you could hope for, there was a breath of wind and we couldn't risk that flipping the lightweight plane.

So I had to pedal into the wind, which meant across the width - rather than down the length - of the runway.

With only a few metres of tarmac to gather speed we had no idea if I'd be quick enough to take off.

Pedalling uphill to avoid that side wind I couldn't seem to get any decent roll control. You have to turn towards the upward wing so the other wing effectively speeds up, gets more lift and evens things out - great in theory. Grrr.

The aeroplane turned uncontrollably, ploughing its precious and delicate wing into the ground.

I bailed out to try to minimise the impact on the airframe but luckily we discovered that if handled thoughtfully the craft seemed more robust than we'd ever hoped.

Now massively feeling the pressure we headed for an old part of the runway.

With a little headwind and flatter ground I got a small hop. I could tell because the sound of the wheels on tarmac suddenly went briefly silent.

At this point though some of the amassed eminent figures in aviation were questioning my piloting - was that really the reason it was almost bound to the ground?

We decided to put a pretty fit and phenomenally experienced pilot in the hot seat.

He too only managed a very small hop but crucially he was able to give me definite advice on using our homemade control system.

Success!!  Jem (with team) finally makes a 'hop' into the air

Success! Jem manages a few seconds in the air. Image copyright: Arthur Willmer

I took on board everything he said and cycled into a sensation that I simply didn't know existed. It's literally like being plucked from the ground.

Flying in a pedal-powered aeroplane feels like you've just dragged something out of the world of cartoons and into the fringes of reality.

It wasn't a huge flight - seconds long and 30 yards at best - but we'd definitely made an aircraft.

An aircraft powered by a fairly ordinary human.

In the history of the world it's highly likely that man is by far the heaviest creature ever to fly using muscle power alone. I now hope it happens far more often and gets easier with every attempt.

Jem Stansfield is a presenter of Bang Goes The Theory.

You can watch the human-powered plane take flight in episode seven of Bang Goes The Theory on Monday, 30 April at 7.30pm on BBC One and BBC One HD in Scotland, England and Northern Ireland. Viewers in Wales can watch on the same day at 8pm on BBC Two. For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.


  • Comment number 1.

    Seating position doesn't look great for power output. Recumbent cycling position might be better, and would reduce drag.

  • Comment number 2.

    I agree with Toby, a recumbent position may be better. The wing design is beautiful though, and the flight looked good (if short!). Perhaps a light cord could be attached to the wing struts near the tips and light tugging be applied from the guys on the ground to act as ailerons to level the wings and improve lift during further test flights... Until the basic frame has been further developed that is.

    Oh, and up the gearing a little! I hope someone keeps tweaking this delightful creation.

  • Comment number 3.

    Wow, those wings are beautiful but I have to agree with Toby and Gareth. A bit more work required on:
    Aero position of the cyclist
    Lost power through flexing of the airframe
    Gearing/propeller size & pitch

    I hope you keep working on it, it could be a great flyer!

  • Comment number 4.

    Good effort! bad position! Why bolt upright? you need to gain air speed but you're sat there like a parachute? I'm sure you have a reason.
    Keep it up Jem, I'm living vicariously at least :)

  • Comment number 5.

    "In the history of the world it's highly likely that man is by far the heaviest creature ever to fly using muscle power alone. I now hope it happens far more often and gets easier with every attempt."

    Sadly we don't seem to have made much progress since Gossamer Condor in 1977 and Gossamer Albatross in 1979. Looking at the pilot position on those two aircraft compared to this one you are definitely not getting the best balance and power output. Mind you, it's an excellent effort considering the amount of time you had to design and build it!

  • Comment number 6.

    I'll remember Bryan Allen.

  • Comment number 7.

    I appreciate your enthusiasm, but I truly don't understand why you didn't investigate either recumbent-bicycle or hang-glider/microlight design. And your lack of roll control comes from a thing called "wind shear", where the air a few tens of feet above the ground moves significantly faster than the air close to the ground, so the wind speed over each wing is different. Basic hang-glider flight training. Missed opportunity.

  • Comment number 8.

    Astonishing how so much effort can be so misdirected. Learned little from the earlier attempts. One of the crucial things of the Gossamer designs were their simplicity, the wing here might be beautiful but its hopeless, there will never be enough control at low speeds and that supermarket trolley castor on the front, come on! didn't anyone think of talking to Chris Hoy?

  • Comment number 9.

    There is not a lot of difference between the upright and recumbent position, most of the drag is from the wing although a bit of fairing in front of the pilot will decrease the pilot's drag in half, but it is still a fraction of the wing drag.

    A 3 metre (ten foot) 2 bladed propeller is usually as efficient as propellers get, bigger is just heavier.

    A lot of human powered aircraft design is non-intuative and you have to crunch the numbers to find out exactly how strong and often even more important, how stiff the structure is.

    See https://twitter.com/ for another human powered aircraft and how that got on.

  • Comment number 10.

    Non intuitive? Is that why it took so long? But even so its evident he's being pushed along the ground because he can't get enough speed, and as soon as they let go when he's off the ground, he loses control. One of the OTHER crucial things that was learnt on the Gossamers was Wash in-Wash out. And with this design there's absolutely no possibility of it. Just look at it. Hopeless! Was our money involved?

  • Comment number 11.

    Great Jem that you got airbourne, modifications can now be made in seating position and if you use a professional cyclist in future who knows the time and distance that you be acheived.

  • Comment number 12.

    Proof of principle. I hope that the the aircraft will continue to be developed by a volunteer group somewhere, rather than disappearing into a BBC warehouse.
    The Gossamers were developed to win prizes intended to encourage practical human powered aircraft, though the whole concept seems to have faded from view in the years since.
    Southampton university still use the concept as a training tool for their aeronautical engineering students.

  • Comment number 13.

    The problem is the pilot’s weight!
    I would suggest a re-design, so go back to the drawing board and incorporate helium to counter the Pilots weight, and then less effort will be needed to power the aircraft.

  • Comment number 14.

    Helium is a very limited resource and would provide only very small amounts of extra lift. Better perhaps to put the propeller ahead of the wing to increase lift from it's airflow and the pilot prone to reduce drag.

  • Comment number 15.

    As a schoolkid, we went to Manston & saw the Gossamer Albatross before it flew across the Channel. I met Don Dupont, & Bryan was always cycling past our school. I'm even in the documentary...which would have been a good starting place for the Bang Goes team! All those technical specifications are available, all the problems well known, so why has that flight been airbrushed or forgotten by the team when we already know what won't work? How to do it better 33 years on would be a worthy enterprise, not how to invent a paler imitation.

  • Comment number 16.

    Arrg! Not the Helium in the wing "trick", Howie D! The wings hold 2 to 3 KG of air, replacing it with Helium would result in about a 1 to 1 1/2 KG reduction in the weight and there is the problem of making the wing gas-tight which may add the weight you save by using Helium in the first place.

    Jem's aircraft looks like it is based on Velair, see https://www.pictures.propdesigner.co.uk/html/velair.html with it's rear mounted propeller and rotating wingtips for ailerons although there is a copy of the Gossamer Condor plans that the late Paul MacCready used to sell at https://library.propdesigner.co.uk/html/gossamer_condor_drawings.html if you feel the need to build your own.

  • Comment number 17.

    A great attempt Jem. We were cheering you all the way. There have been many comparisons with Paul Mc Cready and the Gossamer Condor/Albatross planes but no one seems to have mentioned the successful flight from Crete to Santorini by Kanellos Kanellopoulos in Daedalus designed and built by MIT. 74 miles in the air by human muscle! See Aeromodeller August 1988 for a full account.

  • Comment number 18.

    There's plenty more potential in this aircraft - and pilot. It was a tall order to set up a new aircraft and teach the pilot to fly it all in the same day. We did add a pilot fairing later but made some other changes including the elevator angle which prevented getting better flights later that day. We also had crosswind conditions. In a light westerly there's no reason why flights the length of Lasham runway should not be possible. I think given the inexperience of the team and the short timescale, it's a great achievement. I like the simplicity of design. Hopefully it will be out again at the Icarus Cup event, Lasham 14-22nd July.

  • Comment number 19.

    The (roll) control issue was solved by Gossamer Condor when they realised that once a turn was initiated, they needed to REVERSE the control input. Because of large wing span and relatively tight turn radius and very low airspeed, inner wing needed higher incidence than outer to maintain balance in the turn.

  • Comment number 20.

    The article ibushell refers to should be on the Royal Aeronautical Society Human Powered Aircraft site dowload page at https://aerosociety.com/About-Us/specgroups/Human-Powered/Downloads but it and other links cause an error page to be displayed but a copy can be seen at https://library.propdesigner.co.uk/daedalus.pdf.

  • Comment number 21.

    With regard to this lack of control in roll, I'm virtually certain what you experienced is actually due to sideslip caused by insufficient side areaforward of the CG. With the amount of dihedral you have plus the low CG & negligible rotational inertia I refuse to believe it's a spiral stability thing. I'd bet anything that if you put three or four symmetrical ribs horizontally as a fairing round the pilot covered in mylar it would handle perfectly , and you could kick through it in a crisis.

  • Comment number 22.

    I would add an extra large carbon composite chainwheel in order to boost the RPM. Jem would need a longer run-up, and maybe a bit of assistance from the runners to begin with, but once in the air he would be able to go further using his own muscle power.

  • Comment number 23.

    A plane called Musculaire was an upright riding position and won a kremer prize for carrying a passenger, and I think completing a figure of 8. https://library.propdesigner.co.uk/musculair.pdf MusculaireII went on to win speed prizes (recumbent). @U14576049 The BBC plane did have plenty of wash in and wash out capabilities, which were used. You cant see the degrees of difference between the wing sections in the photos. Plane was built in a few short months by novices with a small budget. A normal bloke pedals it off the ground. Phenomenal!

  • Comment number 24.

    I really don't think this is a washin/out issue. The mc Cready Gossamer aircraft did indeed use wing warp to prevent the inboard wing dropping in tight turns ( which were induced by laterally tilting the canard elevator as the machines had no rudders). However they-as well as the Musculairs and the MIT Daedalus series were quite stable in level flight and could be corrected by small control inputs in yaw alone. Musculair !, built by Gunther Rochelt and his son Holger (the pilot) originally had dihedralled wingtips and ailerons, but these proved ineffective and were replaced by a continuously tapered wing in which dihedral was imparted by flight load. In this configuration it was extremely similar to the BBC aircraft; T-tail of similar area, pusher propshaft co-axial in the tail boom, nearly identical pilot position and support structure. The only significant difference is that Musculair had a fairing around the pilot providing a large side area near the CG/CP to inhibit sideslip. Since posting my comment (21 above) I've been told that Holger once took off without part of the fairing in place & found the aircraft uncontrollable.

  • Comment number 25.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 26.

    "In the history of the world it's highly likely that man is by far the heaviest creature ever to fly using muscle power alone"
    Nope- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quetzalcoatlus
    Just to be unnecessarily picky.

  • Comment number 27.

    That is not sustained flight. This is:


    See any difference?

  • Comment number 28.

    I'm not a huge aeroplane enthusiast, but that was incredible! I was literally on the edge of my seat willing the plane to rise! My heart was in my mouth! Just more proof that Jem Stanfield can make anything!!

  • Comment number 29.

    The recumbant postion offers far more power to the pedals allowing a much higher gear ratio to be used which in turn means less body movement and vibration and easier use of controls.As a cyclist if I stand to gain maximum weight over the pedal my 16 stone gives around 184 LBS to the pedal where as in recumbant postion I exert over 400LBS, more than double.

  • Comment number 30.

    Where i may not be able to use a technical jargon like others..
    Well done for getting the plane off the ground :-)... thats why bang goes the theory is SO good..seeing "experiments" visually and in a FUN way...makes science interesting.
    again well done!

  • Comment number 31.

    amazing! I do imagine the plane is unstable because of the single airscrew; the torque turning the left wing down.

  • Comment number 32.

    What has happened to the model aircraft enthusiasts input??
    The machine obviously requires a roll control mechanism to keep the craft on an even keel. Contollable trim tabs on the wing tips or warping wings viz. Bleriot monoplane are required. Well done for the technology!!!

  • Comment number 33.

    Jem,Saw the attempt on BBC 1 tonight. I think that what is required is a stable speed across the ground. You said that the necessary speed was 12mph this could be achieved by using the small wheels you had as a front of a triangular frame that would have a normal cycle (Carbon fibre of course) wheel on the third point of contact. This third wheel would be driven by your pedalling to above the actual rotational speed required and the triangular base would offer more stability whilst on the ground. I also agree that a front propeller could offer more traction when airborn. Drive to the third wheel could be disconnected when in flight.

  • Comment number 34.

    Jem, you and your team should be so proud of yourselves! It was scary yet beautiful to watch the plane take shape and of course to fly, and it cannot be denied that it is an amazing feat of engineering and of courage too! Seeing what you underwent was rather painful to watch (and I’m sure very draining for you, mentally and physically), but also very inspiring too. Thank you so much for putting yourself on the line in the name of science, inventing and engineering; you are a real hero to all who have a love of science and have a dream to fly!

  • Comment number 35.

    What happened to my earlier post
    Don't know anything about aircraft design but looking at the film the prop. drive reaction appeared to be tilting to the left & indeed that's what happened.
    Just looked at Wright brothers plane & they used two contra rotating props to kill this problem. Seems you need left wing larger than the other, only over a limited speed though.
    Also used wing warping mentioned above

  • Comment number 36.


    There are several positives coming out of your efforts at Lasham: your design generates enough lift; you generate enough power; the propeller is well enough matched to your output to get you airborne and the whole thing is light enough to fly while remaining strong enough to withstand some rough handling. To have achieved all this in a few weeks is nothing short of phenomenal.

    You flew in the wake of pioneers. No doubt somebody told you that a certain Derek Piggott made the first man-powered aircraft flight in the UK in SUMPAC, an aircraft made by Southampton University, from the same runway in 1961. Here's hoping you get the chance (and the money) to develop your design. I am sure you and it would succeed.

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 38.

    The design of the wing used is of a high aspect ratio, long and thin, which is ideal for converting speed to lift, however in nature wing design for low airspeed lift has evolved to use a low aspect ratio wing ie, a vulture whose soaring capabilities would seem to suggest a high aspect ratio, uses a low aspect ratio wing, the vulture has to land take on payload (a meal) and then take off from the ground at low airspeed with far greater control required and higher higher manoeuvrability

  • Comment number 39.

    Will we be seeing more from this? The plane is undamaged so it doesn't make sense to stop now. I'd like to see how far this can fly with further flight practice and engineering tweaks. I guess Jem has to move on to other projects now. What will happen to the plane?

  • Comment number 40.

    It should work , but you are losing a lot lift from your wings through to much flexing and it also affects your C of G. I recomend bracing the wing with some of your carbon string on leading and training edges, 1 third and 2 thirds on each wing down to the cycle frame base. This should prevent worp, flex, and keep that C of G, a king post would help. One could have cut back on boom strength. Back to the old days that I know more about.

  • Comment number 41.

    Jem excellent job and great effort.
    I feel learning from all the earlier work and successes could have helped greatly.
    Much of Gossamer's and Daedalus' and other's details and experiences are in the public domain.
    Canard design may have reduced weight / increased lift.
    Puller prop could have directed flow over top of wing increasing lift.
    Some bracing may have resulted in even lighter and more stiff structure.
    Anyway, excellent feat and on Derek Piggott's patch !
    Now improve on the "proof of concept" and learn to fly it . . .
    Well done indeed to all the crew involved - more !!

  • Comment number 42.

    Many thanks for all the comments and technical suggestions. Milofelis, i'm very interested in your point on the effect of the cockpit faring on roll control. We had the best intentions to fit a full faring to the craft, which was one reason we were less concerned with the drag from the riding position. Unfortunately the timescale for this job was so tight that come dawn on the day of flight there had simply not been enough hours in the previous few weeks to do everything - so we just went for it. I'm on another job at the moment but hope to fit a cockpit, get used to the controls, have time to trim the craft, optimise the prop pitch etc back at lasham some time in july. Do you reckon there's an element of the faring producing a more favourable yawing moment to induce a balancing roll during sideslip?
    Many of you don't like my choice of seating position and i can see why - i went for it because i'm not a pilot, but cycling like that's like second nature so was one less drain on my concentration. As i knew we'd never have have time for testing prior to being filmed and only a tiny time window on the day i worried that recumbent i would have no easy fine c of g adjustment on the runway. But upright i could shift the balance of the plane with my lean fore and aft - and also bale out if i felt my weight might destroy the plane in a crash. Also in my view Gunther and Holgar Rochelt's musculaire is the finest human powered craft i've ever seen, and their upright cycling position didn't seem to hold them back. In fact our design is mainly inspired by musculaire and a german plane called velaire. I didn't follow the lead of the gossamer series as i felt that the configurations weren't right for the practical restrictions that we have to work under. The lower powered designs with larger wing areas tend to have tighter operational weather windows and waiting weeks for the right conditions was just simply out of the question - the job was to fly by the end of the series. Fitness was an issue to , you tend to walk into these jobs and crawl out, there wasn't, beyond my commute to the workshop, time for any training let alone recumbent training. Seb and ivan , you're right about the gearing , i chose a ratio for about 85 rpm at the pedals and 300 - 320 at the prop but probably would've been better with 100-120 at the pedals for short durations. Roger, the cantilever wing with the it's 5ft ish bend root to tip was deliberately calculated for flexural stiffness to give the poly/dihedral shape with the hope that it might give adequate help with roll stability. I feel that with sufficient dihedral, more pilot practice and rudder set up there would be enough roll control through yaw - but i don't know for sure. I found getting to grips with human powered flight cast a new light onto loads of my own biological and mechanical thinking. The bigger the debate the better, and hopefully us getting an average fella into the air in record time can only chip away at the barrier to entry of what has remained a very tricky but truly wonderful human endeavour. sorry about the length of the comment - jem

  • Comment number 43.

    Nice work so far! were you using remote servo controls for the flight surfaces? if so did you think about auto pilot? or even R/C remote pilot? leaving you free to peddle..
    Very simple RC Heli Rate gyro's may be able to provide some assistance in keeping you steady, or alternatively a Raspberry Pi or Arduino controller might be able to fly for you.

  • Comment number 44.

    Jem, great work on the plane in such a short timescale. But, along with the comments already raised, I think I can help you get it airborne for longer.
    From watching the show, there is a lot of unnecessary weight in both the aircraft and your clothing & kit. Every gram on that you take into the air costs in terms of input energy. So bolts that are too long or the wrong materials will cost, as well as your clothing and video cameras. It's time to strip down to the Lycra and maybe only go with one camera. I know it's for tv, so you must have at least one.
    Maybe lose one wheel and rely on a single wheel and human assistants while you're on the ground. I like the previous commenters idea of the carbon composite chain-wheel, too.
    Keep up the great work. I'd love to see this fly further and longer on a future episode.

  • Comment number 45.


    You need a microcontroller to do the flight stabilisation for you so you can concentrate on pedalling for take off. The microcontroller would adjust your controls for level flight if there is no input from you - meaning you'd just pedal as hard as you can until you had enough height to provide inputs.

    Get in touch if you're interested - we're electronic engineers with experience in microcontroller model aircraft stablisation with electronic gyros.

  • Comment number 46.

    Maybe with ultra light components, the right hill and lying down, he could take off unaided

  • Comment number 47.

    parax, we were using servos for rudder and tail movements but they were hard wired (via some software that jim wrote) to slide potentiometers for control. I was chatting to a base jumper the other day who also suggested model a/c flight controllers. I was a bit unsure as we've not really got a full handle on all it's responses yet, but you guys (drdevil44) seem more experienced in that field than me. the craft wasn't fully finished and with clothes shedding and general pruning we've maybe got 2 -3kg to take off it yet - plus a faring to put on.

  • Comment number 48.

    You only have rudder and elevator controls. You don't have any means to control roll so as soon as the handlers let go the plane starts rolling.
    Imaging the plane rolled right wing low and therefore sideslipping to the right. The vertical control surface, the rudder, is set low, so with the sideslip, generates a right wing low rolling moment. What is your control strategy? Steer right into the sideslip or left away from the sideslip? if you steer right the left (outboard) wingtip will then be moving faster than the right wingtip generating more lift on the left wing than the right and increasing the right wing down rolling moment. Not good. The only way you have to increase the lift on the right wing is to steer left so that the right wing is moving faster than the left. But then the extra drag on the right wing (due to the extra lift) will oppose the turn.
    With no roll control the only way to control roll is to steer left/right to increase lift on the right/left wing and with such a large wingspan the extra drag due to the extra lift will oppose the turn you are trying to make. But if you do manage to stay airborne you will be weaving around steering left and right to keep the wings level and with no control over the direction of flight.
    You need some form of roll control e.g ailerons or wing warping. If you use ailerons, servos as for the rudder and elevator, would be a good idea given the flexibility of the structure. Obvious problems are that ailerons would increase both the bending and twisting moments on the wing spar and could twist the wing in the wrong sense diminishing or even negating the effest of the aileron. That is, with a flexible strucure aileron trailing edge low will twist the wing trailing edge high. Inboard ailerons might be a solution.
    You might object that it is difficult to cope with three controls. The control you need least is the rudder. Aeroplanes are controlled in turns by rolling in the intended direction of turn e.g. right wing low to turn right, then pulling back to increase lift. Check it out in the sailplane. You only need the rudder to line up with the runway in a crosswind. I don't see crosswinds as a problem in this case.

    Good luck.

  • Comment number 49.

    Just been watching birds who don't have a rudder but a tail which twists, does this both yaw & roll in one action & even pitch if moved up & down.
    Seems you may only need two actions:
    twist tail for yaw & roll
    wag tail for pitch
    Cutting aileron load on wing, although may lead to unrecoverable nosedive maybe better out front in clean air.
    This is probably rubbish as I know nothing of aircraft flight.

  • Comment number 50.

    Jem, you're my hero!
    You never fail to amaze me with the incredible things you do on Bang, but this takes the cake so far, it's like something from fiction but you did it for real!
    I love how maths and science can lead to such a beautiful moment like when you left the ground, it was inspiring!
    Well done to you and your team! :)

  • Comment number 51.

    Jem became airbourne on Saturday, April 28th under his own power as you can see at https://www.pictures.propdesigner.co.uk/html/steam_boat_willy.html (at the bottom of the page). OK, so it was a human powered hovercraft but he flewand he did it very easily. The propeller was left off for health and safety reasons.

  • Comment number 52.

    Phenomenal stuff...just wonderful to watch. As a schoolteacher of very religious Jewish boys who aren't allowed TV at home, I've been keeping them updated as to your weekly exploits with the plane. They'll be delighted and amazed to hear that you've succeeded...

    I'm not ashamed to admit there was a tear in my eye watching that. Good on you and all your efforts in bringing science alive. For a future challenge, how about desalinating sea-water?

  • Comment number 53.

    Great try Jem, but the seating position did look a too upright and unstable, with more stability and a reclined position more power could be applied and a greater flight distance achieved. By the way what was the music used in the programme during the flight sequences?

  • Comment number 54.

    Brilliant effort but you always turned to the left. I think your wing was twisting under load because the the wing beam section was not symmetrical. A circular section would have been better.
    Quick solution-turn the beam though 90 degrees so it is bending along the weak axis and there should be no tendency to twist.

  • Comment number 55.

    Hi Jem, I love the challenges you do.

    I see two things which could help:

    First is use ground for gaining take-off speed. E.g. power the ground wheel as well. So there should not be a problem to gain the take-off speed.

    Second think is ‘automating’ the take-off. I would focus on an ‘autopilot’ to help keep the plain on ground till take-off speed is reached and then to switch it to an ‘up’ mode. In the last take-off you gain high too quickly resulting in speed loss and landing. :)

    Hope there will be at least 5 minute in the next series.

    Keep pushing,

  • Comment number 56.

    Jem, great effort with the flight, but do you realise you are not using anywhere near your body's full potential. I have a design for a plane to enable human powered flight that would get you up and away! Please contact me to discuss.


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