This is the story of human powered flight during the time when the length of flights has increased from a lesser distance than could be jumped to a further distance than can be swum. As far as we know, no member of our species has been endowed with wings or been lighter than air. Hence, flight has only been possible with the assistance of some sort of artificially constructed device. The construction of every successful device, as the following account shows, has necessitated a great depth of involvement in the technicalities, the nuts and the bolts (or the wax and the feathers). For this reason, much of what follows is concerned with such technicalities. But it should not be forgotten that the most important formula is


Human-powered-flight is more than just a human-powered-aircraft. Flight is the object: the machine is just one of the things which enable this to happen. Not only has a high professional level of engineering always been required to build a plane, which will achieve flight, but also many other skills have been needed.


When most people think of "horsepower", they naturally think it is better to produce more. This was particularly so in the 1950s, (the decade of "Big is beautiful"). But the major aim of every HPA designer was, and still is, to make flight as easy as possible for the pilot(s), i.e. to minimise the power required from them. Hence when we who are involved in HPF hear the word "horsepower", we think in terms of requiring less. This aligns with ecological thinking which has become more prevalent since then. It is now realised that our planet will remain habitable only if the total power produced becomes less. The designers and builders will hopefully make only a small amount of power necessary. Of course, when it comes to flying, performance will improve still further if the pilot pedals harder. There are many motives for HPF, producing and operating an ecologically friendly plane is one of them.


There have been many accounts of human powered flight, as partially listed in the bibliography. I have tried to focus on those topics which I feel have not been sufficiently covered in these other writings, but you are encouraged to study them to get a fuller picture of the technical detail and for reports on flight experience. In preparation for this writing the references are to the earliest available data. Any error or omission should be notified to the author ( ). Throughout, I have tried to show what human powered flight has felt like "from the inside", particularly during the early days in Britain, the days of the Beatles.


What has all too often been overlooked is how many aspects there are to human powered flight. This review won't tell you all you need to know to conceive, design, build and fly an HPA, but hopefully it will convey a little about some of the things about HPF that you didn't think you needed to ask about.


The views expressed are solely those of the author, and not of any organisation of which he happens to be a member.