Holy human-powered flight, Batman!

A Canadian man has become the first human to fly by flapping wings, according to the Toronto Star.

Todd Reichert is an engineer, studying for his PhD at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies. He both designed and flew the craft, which is called an ornithopter. Ornithopters are flying machines that are heavier than air and powered with flapping wings, in imitation of birds.

Reichert named his ornithopter “Snowbird”. The machine is built out of balsa wood and carbon fiber – two very light substances. Although Snowbird has a 105-foot wingspan, which is just six feet shorter than the wings of a Boeing 737 jet, the ornithopter only weighs 94 pounds.

Snowbird was towed by an SUV to takeoff (much like you would run with a kite to get it in the air). Then, with Reichert peddling like crazy, the wing-flapping device sustained altitude for 19.3 seconds and carried him 475 feet with an average speed of 16 miles per hour.  The Toronto Star doesn’t say how he landed.

Reichert has now filed a claim for a new world record in human-powered flight.

Here is some historic footage of early attempts at human-powered flight:

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