10 Uplifting Inventions for Personal Flight

Gossamer Condor/Albatross
© Bettmann/CORBIS

Paul MacCready's Gossamer Condor successfully flew a figure-8 course over 1.25 miles (2.01 kilometers) in 1977 and won a British prize for human-powered flight set up in 1959. Its successor, the Gossamer Albatross was the first human-powered aircraft to cross the English Channel. At some points it only flew six inches over the waves, at a mere 14 miles per hour. Later, MacCready worked together with NASA to test a pilotless model of the Gossamer Albatross 70,000 to 85,000 feet above the earth. NASA (and possibly the military) were attracted to MacCready's design because it offered more speed and controllability than a balloon and could spend longer over a target than planes.