A U.S.-designed, human-powered aircraft piloted by a Greek cycling champion set a world distance record Saturday by flying 74 miles from Crete to another Aegean island, then crash-landed just offshore.
The pilot who pedalled the craft from Crete to Santorini, Greek cycling champion Canellos Canellopoulos, was not hurt when the plane plunged into the sea about 30 feet from shore. He covered 74 nautical miles in just less than 3 hours, 55 minutes, witnesses said.Eric Schmidt, 25, a standby "Daedalus Project" pilot from Boulder, Colo., who followed the plane in a Greek navy ship, said the crash was "sort of shocking." But, he added, "We found him (Canellopolous) later on the beach, happy, smiling and drinking champagne" to celebrate his flight.
The plane was named after Daedalus, an engineer and architect in Greek mythology who fashioned wings from feathers and wax to escape from a prison in Crete in the southern Aegean. Daedalus' son, Icarus, who also tried to fly on wax-and-feather wings, plunged to his death in the Aegean Sea because the wax melted when he ignored his father's warning not to fly too close to the sun.
The Daedalus aircraft, designed and constructed by students and faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., set a distance record for human-powered flight, MIT spokesman Charlie Ball said.
The 70-pound plane encountered heavy winds in Santorini, Ball said. "As it was trying to land on the beach, it was actually hovering 10 to 12 feet above the ground and could not get down because of the wind. The wind snapped the tail, the plane collapsed and fell into the water 20 to 30 feet off the beach."