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368mph at 26,000ft,
range to reach N Africa
The human-powered
flight challenge
Icarus Cup 2012 Special Report
Human powered!
Competitors, including some famous names in GA, gather at Lasham
for The Royal Aeronautical Society Icarus Cup 2012
Words & photography Tim Jackson
As the sun rose on a still and misty
morning at Lasham Airfield in mid July,
a group of intrepid aviators was limbering
up for early morning flights. With the
aircraft wheeled out from their marqueelike temporary hangars and pilots warming
up on pedal cycles, we were reaching the
climax of the inaugural human powered
aircraft (HPA) Icarus Cup, an event staged
to commemorate the 51st anniversary of
human powered flight.
We owe a lot to Mr Henry Kremer: were
it not for the generosity and support of this
industrialist, who left a legacy to the Royal
Aeronautical Society in 1959, human
powered flight would probably still be only
a dream. By funding a series of prizes,
he has provided a focus for research
and made possible the building of some
extraordinary aircraft.
Two large Kremer prizes still remain
unclaimed: namely the £50,000 for an HPA
to fly a 26-mile Marathon distance course
in a time of under one hour, and £100,000
for a sporting HPA capable of operation in
‘normal weather conditions’.
Consequently, the Royal Aeronautical
Society organised the inaugeral Icarus
Cup to promote human powered flight
both technically and as a practical
sporting event, with the dream of it one
day becoming an Olympic sport.
Taking place over a period of nine days,
competing teams completed a series of
challenges designed to test all aspects of
human powered flight. Each task
accumulated points with the result being a
financial prize for the winning team and the
Icarus Cup being awarded to the pilot who
had the most individual points.
Competition tasks included:
• A duration flight
• A 200m sprint race
• A 500m race
• A 1km race
• A slalom course
• An unassisted takeoff
• A take off and landing accuracy task
• Distance around a triangular course
(which in the end was was not
attempted by any competitor)
The event
Poor weather dogged the first few days of
the event. We pick up the story at 5.00am,
time for the morning briefing on the last day
of the nine-day competition. Standing with
Derek Piggott MBE−one of the UK’s bestknown glider pilots, aged 89−and over
thirty other team members is Dr Bill
Brookes, Race Director. Bill reads out the
Apparently taking a simpler route,
Southampton University attached
its 20m-span wing to a racing bike
Pilot October 2012 | 49
Icarus Cup 2012 Special Report
instructions for the day: the wind is expected
to veer to the south and pick up to over ten
knots, but that doesn’t matter for now, as
conditions are calm and we have the whole
of Lasham airfield to play with before the
gliding club opens its hangar doors at nine.
With the infectious enthusiasm gripping
everyone, crew members appear with
parts of their aircraft. Marshals are turning
up from all corners, wearing their highvisibility jackets and using all modes of
personal transport. This could be a pedal
cyclists’ rally, with all the different designs
on show. I count several chopper-like
machines, a hybrid made out of two cycle
frames, and one timekeeper riding around
in a Sinclair C5. There is a real feeling of
community spirit and, despite it being a
competition, it is very noticeable how the
teams are all helping each other.
With the Airglow fuselage now sitting in
its cradle of two fishing rod holders, crew
members are bolting the wings together
and making adjustments using sticky tape.
Team Betterfly have pulled out what can
only be described as a flying bathtub, but
it looks terrific. When I ask the team
manager, David Barford, why he has
Top left: P&M Aviation’s Airglow, which claimed the
prize for best team, boasted a wingspan of 30m
Top right: with team members members and marshals
in hot pursuit, the Airglow makes majestic progress
Above: starting another run, the vast span of the
aircraft — and wing deflection — are apparent
named his team ‘Betterfly’, he says simply
that “it had better fly or else”. With a
wingspan of 22m, wing area of 33.1m²
and empty weight of 40kg, why not?
The third team to appear is the
aeronautical team from Southampton
University. With a history of constructing
a series of human-powered aircraft in the
past, notably its famed HPA SUMPAC,
flown by Derek Piggott in November 1961,
the team is now led by Dr Alexander
Forrester. Under his guidance, they are
attaching their 20m span wing to a normal
looking road racing bike.
Bath University had unfortunately pulled
its HPA ‘Noctule’ out of the competition
the night before, due to the wing detaching
itself from the main body of the aircraft.
However one other team still in one
piece is John Edgley’s EA12 project.
Edgley, who is well known for the unique
Optica aircraft, is using the event as a test
bed for his latest HPA−the only design
with a canard wing. Whilst it is an
interesting design, it does look as if it
should go backwards. It’s a beautiful
morning and, with no wind and the haze
Left & right above: sole canard design in the
competition, the Edgley EA12 was beset by intractable
control problems that took it out of the running
Left: with the addition thrust of its 1kW ‘helper’ motor,
a development aid that allowed the pilot to concentrate
on control, the EA12 makes a short hop
Pilot October 2012 | 51
Special Report Icarus Cup 2012
burning off, all teams move their HPAs
gently to the threshold of Lasham’s Runway
27 for the first task.
With the three remaining teams still
preparing their aircraft, the P&M Airglow is
the first to go, with an attempt on a 500m
flight down the runway. Having warmed
up on a team pedal cycle, pilot Mike
Truelove is launched down the runway
with two runners on the flying wires and a
pusher on the keel. After fifty feet or so,
Airglow gently lifts off and accelerates
away, its wings taking up a majestic curve
as it floats above the runway, tracked by
over thirty runners, cars, cameramen,
marshals... and the ambulance. It is
awesome to see this huge bird fly past
gently, no more than 20ft off the ground.
The second flight proves to be even more
successful, pilot Robin Kraike managing to
fly the full 1.7km length of the runway.
David Bedford’s Team Betterfly is also
enjoying a successful last day, flying over
500m as well as accomplishing an
unassisted take off with its new propeller
−which looks like it has been borrowed
from the local wind turbine. The
aerodynamics have also been improved for
the last day of flying by the installation of
a very natty wrap-around pod, allowing us
to see only the pilot’s head.
While the Southampton team is full of
enthusiasm, it is having problems with
directional stability in flight. The flight
controls comprise a model aircraft radio
control unit bolted to the front of the
handlebars. The twitchy handling
bestowed by this system is giving the
pilots no end of problems. Time and
again a wing drops, resulting in a
slow-motion ground loop−quite
entertaining for those trying to follow
on cycles.
The breakthrough comes when the
R/C unit is handed to Phil Huddleston,
a past British radio-control model
aircraft champion for carrier deck
52 | Pilot October 2012
flying, who operates the flying controls from
a following vehicle. All the person in the
aircraft has to do now is concentrate on
pedalling. With the new system working
quite satisfactorily, the question is who is
the pilot in this situation−Dr Alex Forrester,
who is doing all the pedalling, or Phil
Huddleston, who is controlling the aircraft
from the comfort of a following car?
Sadly John Edgley makes the decision to
pull the EA12 from the competition,
although he continues to experiment for
development purposes. Despite looking
very precarious, after some fine tuning to
the pitch control he manages to make
some encouraging small hops, albeit in
kangaroo fashion. An interesting feature of
his design is a small electric ‘helper’
motor, which gives an output of 1kw and
eases the load for the pilot.
The rest of the morning is up taken
with landing accuracy tasks, unassisted
take offs and Team Betterfly achieving a
successful slalom result as it weaves from
side to side down the runway.
A winner emerges
The event came to a close at 9am, prize
giving taking place in one of the Lasham
club houses, followed by lunch.
The winner of the inaugural HPA 2012
Icarus Cup was P&M Aviation’s Robin
Kraike. It was certainly an emotional
moment for an inspirational man who
Above Left: a lot of development work went into the
aircraft over the course of the competition. Here the
Betterfly sports a near fully-enclosed fuselage
Above Right: Betterfly fitted with a vast propeller
that looked like something off a wind turbine
Below: The individual pilot winner of the Icarus Cup
2012 was the P&M Aviation Airglow team’s Robin Kraike
nearly lost his life in a microlight accident
three years ago and who has since devoted
his energy and skills to getting fit again.
As I conclude my report, we are
surrounded by talk of the Olympics and
the amazing achievements of individual
athletes. I believe that human-powered
flying is a sport with a very interesting
future. Not only do the ground crew have
to be fit and the aeronautical engineers
prepared to implement new ideas, but the
pilot has also to be a highly trained athlete
to generate sufficient power to take off,
stay airborne and land safely. I look
forward to the day that we have a human
powered aircraft category as an official
sport in the Olympics.
Team prizes were awarded to each
aircraft as follows:
1st £2000 — P&M Aviation Airglow
2nd £500 — Team Betterfly
3rd £250 — Southampton University
4th — Team Bath
Individual Pilot Prizes
1st Robin Kraike — P&M Aviation
Airglow & Winner of the Icarus Cup
2nd Mike Truelove — P&M Aviation
3rd David Barford — Team Betterfly