Da Vinci’s Dream Come True

Leonardo Da Vinci was born in 1452, and became one of the most well known inventors, sculptors, painters, musicians, architects, engineer and mathematicians of the time. His thoughts and ideas that are protected and conserved by museums seemed only possible in his mind, although some were the original blueprints for magnificent modern inventions. One of his drawings depicts a craft that could fly through the air with flapping wings on either side. If Da Vinci were alive today, he would proudly look upon the very first functional human-powered ornithopter with amazement and enthusiasm.

Da Vinci first thought of the ornithopter in the year 1485, and for centuries after, scientists and engineers worked towards achieving flight through fixed wing aircrafts and balloons. Even though many tried to create a craft that was human powered, the technology to create lift was not available.

Todd Reichert, from the University of Toronto, led the development of the first ornithoper, which has been named Snowbird. The Snowbird was put to the test on 2 August 2010, and proved that it was able to fly by maintaining both air speed and altitude for just over twenty-nine seconds. Reichert explained his enthusiasm in regard to project by saying: “Throughout history, countless men and women have dreamt of flying like a bird under their own power, and hundreds, if not thousands have attempted to achieve it. This represents one of the last of the aviation firsts.”

Engineering the human-powered ornithopter was a great challenge for Reichter and his team, as the lightweight aircraft had to combine perfectly with its wingspan, which is thirty-five meters. To create a lightweight craft, Reichter used carbon fiber tubes, basswood, balsa wood and foam. To power the Snowbird, Reichter explained that he made use of his legs, “which have the strongest muscles in your body. I just pushed both legs down together simultaneously, as if in a gym doing a leg press, and every time I pushed, a wire connected to the wings pulled them down.” The snowbird has proven that all dreams and ideas are obtainable, although some just take five hundred and twenty-five years to reach completion.