The first time I watched this video I was skeptical. The video sure is realistic, but I’ve read enough about aeronautics to know that human flight and bird flight are not the same thing.
Ever watch hang gliders taking off? They do it from hill tops, not level ground. The guy in the video lifts off from level ground with little or no wind. Look at the wings and the trees in the background – there is little or no movement.
As planes and gliders move forward (or face the wind) the air passing under the wings provides lift. The faster the velocity of the air relative to the wing, the more lift that is provided. But if the speed is being provided by a man running with the glider, as soon as the lift pulls his feet from the ground there is no more acceleration and drag causes the glider to slow down.
Update 2: Some glider pilots are weighing in with their expert opinion, like reader Orian Price:
As a hang glider pilot, I can tell you that this is not real.
Not even close. The roll stability and pitch stability mechanisms are not present to fly.
It takes 10hp for these to have powered flight and with that they can’t climb nearly as fast as that guy.
Another reader, who claims to be a pilot, provides another argument against it:
I’m an Airline pilot with 25 years Airline experience, 7 years Air Force experience, 8 years kiteboarding experience and a background in aeronautical engineering. It’s a fake. Just look at the wings. They’re not showing load at any time. The fabric from the old kiteboarding kite—that’s what the wings are made of—never loads up. If the wings were producing lift, the fabric would be tight, it would look like it was inflated. It never does. There are other signs too, but it doesn’t matter. Since the wings aren’t loaded, they aren’t producing lift. Not even the glide is real. It isn’t a matter of opinion. It’s simple fact. If the wings aren’t producing lift, this has to be a fake. Period. If the wings were producing lift, they would show that they were under load. They never show a load, so they never produce lift.
Update 3: Hang glider G.W. Meadows is also unimpressed with the validity of the video:
I’ve been flying hang gliders for 33 years, a Master Hang Glider Pilot for 23 years, past president of the United States Hang Gliding Association and a Gold Medal winner at the 2000 World Championships. To take the time to try to explain to you why this is so obvious to those of us who fly a nearly identical machine (that just doesn’t flap) that this is a fake would possibly just be too involved. Instead, take a minute and look at a few things that are just obvious to a casual viewer. Why would the people run away from the machine just before he tries to take off? Why is the guy running at the camera blocking the view of the pilot? Note after he gets airborne, his feet are behind him like superman. As a guy whose spent a couple of thousand hours hanging from a hang glider, I can tell you that you have to have a mechanism to hold your feet up like that.
Update 4: An engineer write us about his opinion on Updates 2 and 3, calling it poop:
While I must admit that something doesn’t quote look “right” about that video (mainly that the contraption sure seems to gain altitude mighty quickly after “takeoff” relative to the forward groundspeed speed, but I guess the pilot is very lightweight dude, and maybe there was a good strong headwind) it is also true that the over-confidently-made arguments of the “Airline pilot” & “G.W. Meadows” do not take into account the actual construction of the
This wing is NOT a simple flexible “rogallo” type wing as the Airline pilot & hang glider expert seem to think. In fact it has a semi-rigid main aerofoil section.
The unsupported fabric trailing edge does not appear to be loaded because it is not the main source of lift.
When birds flap their wings they don’t simply move up and down. If they did every time the wings moved up the bird would move down. When a bird takes off by flapping its wings there are a number of complex moves involved, and the wings don’t just provide lift, they provide thrust too.
Watch the video of the ornithopter below. You don’t see the actual take-off, but watch the cabin move up and down with each flap. The ornithopter flew for about 20 seconds in a straight line, never getting far off the ground. The motive power for the flapping was the pilot’s leg muscles.
Which brings me to my last point – the small electric motors used by Jarno Smeets are simply too small to provide the necessary torque. Not only that but a real bird’s wings make long full strokes. Smeet’s wings barely move.
In the age of Obama you just can’t believe everything you see.
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