'Gossamer Albatross', 1979.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Ink line and watercolour drawing by John Lawson. The human-powered 'Gossamer Albatross' was designed by Dr Paul MacCready, an American glider pilot and designer. The aircraft was powered by a simple chain drive linking the pusher propeller with bicycle pedals. It was extremely light, weighing less than 71 lbs, making extensive use of Mylar, a synthetic material with a very high strength-to-weight ratio, in its construction. On 12th June 1979, Bryan Allen, a 26-year old American, succeeded in flying the aircraft across the English Channel from Dover to Cap Gris Nez, pedalling constantly to maintain an altitude of about 16 feet above the sea. Allen's flight took three hours to complete and won him a prize of £100,000 put up by Henry Kremer, a British industrialist.