Light Eagle is seen here in flight over Rogers Dry Lake at the NASA Dryden
Flight Research Center, Edwards, California. The Light Eagle and Daedalus
human-powered aircraft were testbeds for flight research conducted at
Dryden between January 1987 and March 1988.
These unique aircraft
were designed and constructed by a group of students, professors, and
alumni of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology within the context
of the Daedalus project.
To celebrate the
Greek myth of Daedalus, the man who constructed wings of wax and feathers
to escape King Minos, the Daedalus project began with the goal of designing,
building, and testing a human-powered aircraft that could fly the mythical
distance, 115 km.
To achieve this
goal, three aircraft were constructed. The Light Eagle was the prototype
aircraft, weighing 92 pounds. On January 22, 1987, it set a closed course
distance record of 59 km, which still stands. Also in January of 1987,
the Light Eagle was powered by Lois McCallin to set the straight distance,
the distance around a closed circuit, and the duration world records
for the female division in human-powered vehicles.
Following this success,
two more aircraft were built, the Daedalus 87 and Daedalus 88. Each
aircraft weighed approximately 69 pounds. The Daedalus 88 aircraft was
the ship that flew the 199 km from the Iraklion Air Force Base on Crete
in the Mediterranean Sea, to the island of Santorini in 3 hours, 54
minutes. In the process, the aircraft set new records in distance and
endurance for a human-powered aircraft.
The specific areas
of flight research conducted at Dryden included characterizing the rigid
body and flexible dynamics of the Light Eagle, investigating sensors
for an autopilot that could be used on high-altitude or human- powered
aircraft, and determining the power required to fly the Daedalus aircraft.
The research flights
began in late December 1987 with a shake-down of the Light Eagle instrumentation
and data transfer links. The first flight of the Daedalus 87 also occurred
during this time. On February 7, 1988, the Daedalus 87 aircraft crashed
on Rogers Dry Lake bed. The Daedalus 88, which later set the world record,
was then shipped from MIT to replace the 87's research flights, and
for general checkout procedures. Due to the accident, flight testing
was extended four weeks and thus ended in mid-March 1988 after having
achieved the major goals of the program: exploring the dynamics of low
Reynolds number aircraft and investigating the aeroelastic behavior
of lightweight aircraft. The information obtained from this program
had direct applications to the later design of many high-altitude, long