National Geographic : 1978 Jan
Piano wire strung from aluminum posts helps strengthen the wing. Corrugated card board and ribs of aluminum, spruce, and balsa wood shape the wing. Like the Wright brothers' glider of 1902 (above), the Gossamer Condor employs an airfoil called a canard in front of the wing to maintain level flight or initiate climbs or descents. / Ailerons on the canard permit it to bank for slight turns of the aircraft. For major turns, the pilot uses a lever connected to piano wire to twist the wing tips slightly, and Chain-driven propeller is colored red and yellow so revolutions can be counted. in opposite directions. Variation in drag, or air resistance, at the wing tips helps the aircraft to turn. Aipbopne at last ongossamep wings IF WISHES WERE WINGS, earthlings would have flown under their own power long ago, for unassisted flight is one of man's ancient aspirations. In mythology Icarus (right) and his father, Daedalus, flew on feathered wings held together with wax. Ignoring his father, Icarus flew too near the sun; its heat melted the wax, and he fell into the sea. Daedalus, we are told, landed successfully. Condor's 96 foot wingspan exceeds that of a DC-9. In the 15th century Leonardo da Vinci drew plans for a man powered vehicle. Venturesome Europeans later attempted soaring flight with a variety of paddles and feather- or cloth covered wings, sometimes with fatal results. Perhaps the all time record for intricacy goes to an unsuccessful English auto giro (lower right). Lured by the dream as well as by the British prize, emi nent aeronautical designers led teams that fabricated elegant aircraft (facing page). As pilot-cyclists huffed and Stuffed, some of these aircraft flew for considerable distances, usu ally in a straight line. By manipulat ing a canard mounted on a pole in front of the wing for minor turns, and twisting the wing tips slightly for major ones, Paul MacCready solved the low speed turning problem for Gos samer Condor, and his aircraft wafted into aviation history. P .ri '"Bg~E~ ~ iP"