Route Slightly Changed, Pilots Introduced
SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) _ A group of scientists and athletes who hope to set records for human- powered flight announced Wednesday a slight change of route in the islands of Greece and introduced five prospective pilots for their ultralight airplane.
Instead of flying from Crete to the Greek mainland, the Daedalus plane will attempt a 74-mile trip from Crete to the island of Santorini off the east coast of Greece, said project engineer John Langford.
The change, dictated by weather considerations, adds two miles to the route. If successful, the flight will be three times longer than the flight by a pedal-powered plane called the Gossamer Albatross across the English Channel in 1979.
The project is named after Daedalus of Greek mythology, who with his son Icarus is said to have attempted the flight to Greece on wings fashioned from wax and feathers. Icarus flew too close to the sun and died, but Daedalus made good his escape from imprisonment on Crete.
Five bicyclists and technical crews have been training in two versions of the ultralight plane in the Mojave Desert. Only one of the pilots will actually attempt the record, the one chosen on flight day as the most prepared.
″They are training like mad,″ said Clare Hertel, a spokesman for the sponsor, before a news conference called to introduce the athletes at a trendy Santa Monica restaurant. ″All these guys are terrific athletes, but they have to learn how to fly.″
The group plans to leave California for Greece on Feb. 24. Coordinators hope to fly between March 14 and April 12 before the weather gets too hot. Even in moderate temperatures, the pilot will have to pedal non-stop for an estimated 4 1/2 to six hours.
″If they rest, the plane goes down. It’t that simple,″ said Ethan Nadel, a Yale physiologist overseeing the training. ″It’s like running two marathons back-to-back.″
Members of the team claim to have set four records for human-powered flight in January 1987: for distance in a closed circuit, 36.6 miles; distance in a closed circuit by a female pilot, 9.6 miles; straight distance by a female pilot, 4.2 miles; and duration of a flight by a female pilot, 36.7 minutes.
Flight data has been submitted to organizations that certify aeronautical records for verification.
The pilots are Glenn Tremml of New Haven, Conn., a medical student; Kanellos Kanellopoulos, of Vrahneika, Greece, a member of the Greek cycling team; Greg Zack, of Lexington, Ky., a bicycle racer; Erik Schmidt, of Boulder, Colo., a full-time amateur cyclist; and Frank Scioscia, of Scranton, Pa., a member of the U.S. national cycling team.
The route was changed because the air is calmer between Crete and Santorini, Langford said. The flight will be attempted only if winds are three knots or milder. To avoid dehydration, the temperature will have to be below 70 degrees, Langford said.
An escort boat will ensure safety and help the pilot navigate.
Built of lightweight carbon fiber and other high-tech materials, the plane somewhat resembles a plastic-wrapped glider. The pilot reclines slightly on a seat, pushing the pedals mounted just below waist level and steering with a single ″joystick″ that controls the rudder and elevators on the tail.
The plane was designed by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Sponsors of the project include the Smithsonian Institution, MIT, United Technologies, which paid for plane construction, and the Shaklee Corp., a vitamin and food supplement manufacturer that is paying for the athletes’ training.