Some more pictures of Airglow

Text from an article about Airglow By Rodney Tibbs.

Man powered flight poses a formidable number of aeronautical problems, all of which must be solved to be successful. Yet in spite of the challenge it remains one of the very few areas where a small group, with the minimum of help and working at home, can produce a completely viable machine. A few years ago this was believed to be impossible. True manpowered flight had proved elusive for centuries. And manpowered aircraft absorbed almost as much time, energy, money and material as their powered counterparts. Airglow proved the exception. Airglow was designed by John McIntyre of Cambridge, and built with the assistance of his brother Mark and a small team of enthusiasts. it started out as a practical demonstration of the acquisition of a number of skills. Rather as the craft apprentices of a century or so ago produced a single item which encapsulated everything they had learned, so Airglow's designers wanted to demonstrate, just what they could do. With skilled assistance from two or three other people, Airglow was assembled in a small workshop and flown first time out from RAF Duxford. It suffered no disasters and worked straightaway. In the history of man powered flight, it is unique. The wing of Airglow was tested in the gymnasium at Sawston Village Collage where the head of science Bryan Gostlow had already been enrolled into the project. Bottles of water where hung all over it to simulate flight loads of 140 kg. The delicate tail assembly was mounted on the roof of the McIntyre's family car and driven along Duxfords runway while a video camera was trained on it to record results. The pilot, Nick Weston, 18 of High street Abington, concentrated on bringing his cycling and gliding experience together ready for the great day. And one morning on Duxford runway, fast pedalling Nick, lifted the machine into the air. 'Good Grief it flies!' shouted Mark and the rest of the team broke into a cheer. The early hours of the morning where deliberately chosen they tend to offer the stillest air and in any event the runway is required for normal use after 9 am. The Airglow project was funded by a grant from the Royal Aeronautical Societies 'Kremer' Fund, and help came from a variety of sources including Ciba-Geigy plastics of Duxford who provided a range of materials. And in spite of his three year dedication to the programme, John McIntyre never really thought the Airglow would get off the ground at the first attempt. 'I was convinced something would break,' he said. 'The idea that designers have enormous confidence is mearly a legend'. 'Anyone who gets confident is going to get clobbered.' Real worries he explained where over structural failure And most people he said had difficulties with the drive train - the system by which the pilot's peddling transfers to the propeller. 'We where lucky, and Mark did a very good job of building the drive train and designing the gear box.The pilot of the Airglow must lift the aircrafts weight of 32kg plus, of course his own weight. He reclines backwards and needs to put energy amounting to about 225 watts into the propeller - roughly the equivalent of two and a half conventional electric light bulbs. He works the control surfaces electronicaly, through tiny servo motors mounted in the control surfaces themselves, they respond to signals transmitted from a small control column in the pilot's hand. With the first flights complete, Airglow is undergoing modifications - a little more air for the pilot to breath and a slightly different gear ratio. 'Mark has done brilliant work with the construction of the propeller' says John. and Mark is equally complementary about John's first time design. 'I am glad it worked,' John said, 'Perhaps we can all catch up on some sleep now'.

Some other things about how to build an MPA.

The trouble with talking about the airplane is it leaves out too much, there is a lot else that matters about how it came to be built. I took a degree in ship design (and hated it) I was unemployed, there was a recession and I didn't know what to do. I didn't know that it was possible to do what I liked or what it was called. I did what I have always done, I listened, not the right word but the best I can do, hoping to somehow hear what to do. I read books and taught myself things, ecology, meteorology, oceanography and math. Everyone said what are you doing? I wasn't sure how to answer but knew that I was doing something. I was aware of man powered aircraft, I'd always thought I could do that. One evening Ron Moulton gave a slide show about the Gossamer Albatross and Bionic Bat. He said Hey you should build one. (Airglow owes a lot to Bionic Bat.) I went to Heffer's in Cambridge and sat on the floor reading - deciding which book to buy. I bought Foundations of Aerodynamics and went home to start learning aircraft design. While all this was going on I was building a house for my parents. I got badly stuck trying to design the propeller using a calculator and paper. I borrowed a friend's computer and learnt to programe in BASIC. The thing only had 64K of memory and it was slow but it worked. The first of several borrowed computers. I sent the MPAG my calculations and they gave me enough money to start making carbon tubes. I watched the Daedalus aircraft fly and learned a lot talking to Mark Drela and Harold Youngren. The house was getting built too. You don't need much space to build an MPA, Airglow was built in a workshop that we made in the roof space above a double garage ~ 4m x 8m. When we ran out of space we took the pieces to a school gymnasium, or woodwork shop and fitted them together there.

People are always telling me reasons for not doing things. That is sad - you can do anything if you can just find the right way to think of it.

Something that seems worth telling. When I was sixteen I made a sailing catamaran bicycle, helped by a school friend whoes sister was mad with us for using her bicycle. The thing was fast (for a little while) but then broke up - a humongous tangled crash. Some design errors were - you couldn't steer and joints made with bailer twine and duct tape are not a good idea. I may have a Heath Robinson weekend and build another one - a picture is needed. Hey it was far stranger then the disintegrating airplanes they always show in films about Man powered flight.

Its not hard to design airplanes. If you do the calculations the thing has to fly.

Technical data

Primary structure Carbon fibre tubes, stressed to 2g. Secondary structure Kevlar/Carbon/Rohacell/Styrofoam moldings. Fly by wire control system.

Empty weight 32 Kg
Wingspan 25 m
Wing area 22.5 m2
Flying speed 8.2 m/s (Approximately 16 mph)
Minimum power 225 watts

Here you are Bryan - the first airplane - nothing changes

For more information see the RAeS human powered aircraft group