Human-powered helicopter history to land

The American Helicopter Museum and Education Center in West Chester will welcome a piece of aviation history on Friday, Aug. 26, when it receives one of four rotors, hubs and trusses from the first human-powered helicopter, Atlas.

Photo courtesy of AV

The American Helicopter Museum will put a piece of human-powered aviation history on display. Photo courtesy of AeroVelo

The Atlas, designed and built by Canada’s AeroVelo, will be part of a new interactive exhibit that will incorporate a stationary bicycle to reenact the Atlas’ record-breaking flight, a museum press release said.

AeroVelo Atlas won the prestigious $250,000 American Helicopter Society Sikorsky Human-Powered Helicopter Prize in 2013 for being the first human-powered copter to fly for 64.1 seconds at a height of over 9.8 feet while hovering within a 33-foot radius, surpassing the challenge’s requirements. AeroVelo founders Todd Reichert and Cameron Robertson, both aerospace engineers and graduates of the University of Toronto, led a team of University of Toronto alumni, students and volunteers to victory as Reichert piloted the innovative aircraft.

Reminiscent of one of Leonardo da Vinci’s flying machines, the hand-built helicopter used a four-rotor system that connected the blades to carbon fiber trusses then to a modified bicycle frame suspended in the center by a lightweight cord. Mylar plastic film covered the rotor blades that together measured 67 feet long. The spindly frame weighed only 115 pounds. AeroVelo Atlas’ power derived from Reichert’s strength and endurance while pedaling the bicycle to keep the fantastic contraption in the air.

With the feat accomplished, AeroVelo dismantled the Atlas and donated half of it to the Ontario Science Centre and a quarter to an Alberta museum. Reichert and Robertson then decided to give AHMEC the remaining quarter, making it the only U.S. museum to possess a portion of the historic copter.

“The American Helicopter Museum and Education Center is honored to own and display one quarter of this extraordinary aircraft, exemplifying the spirit of modern day innovators,” said Tony Freeman, AHMEC’s exhibit committee chairman and board member.

Following its arrival, the AeroVelo Atlas segments will be temporarily hung until completion of AHMEC’s new Pioneer Hall. Final installation will be in September or October, the release said.

The American Helicopter Museum and Education Center is the nation’s premier aviation museum devoted exclusively to helicopters. Established in 1996, the nonprofit collects, restores and displays rotary-wing aircraft, including over 35 civilian and military helicopters, autogiros and convertiplanes.





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