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Human-Powered Helicopter - The Gamera

A team of 52 graduate students of the University of Maryland has successfully flown their human-powered helicopter called the Gamera this week Thursday. The project was started in a bid to set an aviation 'first', a world record, and to win the $ 250 000 Sikorsky Challenge. Although the aircraft successfully lifted off in the air, it is still unofficial as the results still have to be analysed by the NAA and the Federation Aeronautique Internationale in Switzerland.

The helicopter is made of light weight materials such as balsa wood, mylar, carbon fiber, and foam. The backbone of the helicopter is a massive X frame with each crossbar measuring 60 ft. (18 m). At the ends of the crossbars are four huge rotors 42 ft long (12.6 m). The pilot seats in the middle and will have to peddle furiously to fly the thing. Although the whole aircraft takes up about a third of a football field, it only weighs 210 pounds, plus the pilot.

The pilot for this Thursday's successful trial is Judy Wexler, a 24 year-old Graduate student of the University of Maryland. Being the pilot, she has to pedal furiously with both her hands and feet as pedaling at 120 rpm will cause the rotors to spin at only 18 rpm. Although the length of the entire flight and the height at which the helicopter reached is uncertain as of now, what is certain is that the aircraft did lift off the ground and that's all they need to beat the world record. Sadly, the Sikorsky Challenge requirements of at least 3 m of altitude and a 1 min flight duration was not met.

It's interesting to note that the Sikorsky Challenge was issued in 1980 and as of today, no one has been able to meet this challenge.

Aerial Intelligence - The LEMV Modern Blimp

The US military gave Northrop Grumman a $ 517 million contract to create an LEMV or Long Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle. The LEMV is basically a giant airship that will provide long term aerial reconnaissance and surveillance support for ground troops.

The LEMV is a 300 ft. long behemoth that, like many of the new aircraft being developed, will be unmanned. It can stay aloft in the air for up to three weeks at a time and has a low pressure helium hull. However, what's really incredible of the LEMV is that its aerodynamic hull accounts for 40% of its lift. As a result, the hull does not need a lot of helium to keep it in the airship in the air and so, when the fragile surface of the hull is somehow punctured or shot, the airship will not explode or fall out of the sky.

The LEMV will be powered by four diesel engines and will cost $15 000 per re-fuel for every three-week mission. This is amazingly one-tenth of the price of fuel used for a helicopter and one-quarter of the price of fuel used for an airplane per mission.

The LEMV is set to be finished and operational in the latter half of this year. It will be used for a demonstration mission in Afghanistan and upon success of the missile, five more will be built.

Boeing 787 DreamLiner Photo Gallery

Dreamliner in flight

State-of-the-Art Dreamliner cockpit

The Dreamliner at its unveiling

Stylish interior

Dreamliner in the factory

Airbus A380 Photo Gallery

A380 in flight

Crowd gathers around unveiling of A380

Singapore Airline's A380 in flight

Luxurious interior of A380

Spacious seats - What size can offer

'JetMan' Will Fly Through Grand Canyon On Jet Pack

Yves Rossy, nicknamed 'JetMan', is a Swiss engineer and aviator. Being the first man to achieve sustained human flight with a jet pack, Rossy has flown across the Geneva river, the Alps, the English Channel, and partway through the Strait of Gibraltar (he had to ditch in the ocean because of bad weather but was unharmed). He is planning another feat on Friday, May 6 this month. This time, he will be flying across the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

Rossy's jet pack is designed by him and straps onto to him like a backpack. It is powered by 4 jet engines modified from model aircraft engines attached to the undersides of the semi-rigid carbon fibre wings. To steer himself, Rossy's body acts as a rudder. Although powerful, the engines are not strong enough for a takeoff on the ground. Therefore, Rossy has to go onboard a plane and then "takeoff" from there.

In his past flights, Rossy has reached speeds of up to 304 km/h (189 mph).

Assuming that I am able to count, this will be Rossy's 5th official flight to date. In my opinion, it takes a lot of guts to strap onto a jet pack and fly across rivers and mountains at unimaginable heights so let's wish wish Rossy good luck for Friday.

Naval-Aerial Power - Carrier Battle Groups

A carrier battle group is a group of ships centred around an aircraft carrier. These groups consist of destroyers, minesweepers, oil tankers, battleships, and other such crafts that are dedicated to protecting the aircraft carrier.

The carrier battle group first originated in WWII when Japan demonstrated the power of the carrier in the Battle of Pearl Harbour. Nowadays, the US Navy operates the largest number of carrier strike groups (US Navy term). Ten groups are based in the US and one is based in Japan.

As an example of the composition of a typical carrier battle group, here's what the French Charles de Gaulle carrier battle group usually consists of:
  • the carrier air wing - about 40 aircraft
  • a submarine
  • two anti-submarine destroyers
  • two anti-aircraft destroyers
  • one frigate in forward patrol
  • one supply ship