Image of <i>Daedalus</i> Human-Powered Flight Team Daedalus Human-Powered Flight Team
Competition, Records, and Project Learning – Daedalus Human-Powered Flight Project

In April 1988, a team of 40 MIT students, faculty, and alumni set a world record for human-powered flight. Piloted by Greek cycling champion Kanellos Kanellopoulos, Daedalus 88 flew 74 miles from Crete to Santorini in a re-creation of the mythological flight of the craft’s namesake. Under the leadership of graduate student John Langford, the project began three years earlier as a partnership between MIT and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum. Following a successful feasibility study, the prototype aircraft Michelob Light Eagle was built and tested at Lincoln Laboratory’s Flight Test Facility and the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center. Pilots Lois McCallin and Glenn Tremml set four world records for human-powered flight in January 1987. Support from United Technologies and dozens of other corporations inspired the construction of the real aircraft—Daedalus 87 and Daedalus 88— as well as the trip to Greece the following year that would shatter those earlier records. The project’s success made MIT front-page news around the globe. This major cultural endeavor not only involved active collaboration between two nations, but also spurred the formation of a new company, engineering research, and major curriculum reform in aerospace engineering at MIT and beyond.

Wingtip, Michelob Light Eagle (Daedalus prototype aircraft), 1986
Daedalus Human-Powered Flight Project, 1985–1988

photo: Steve Finberg ©1988

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  • I just came to know about the Daedalus today. I found it really encouraging because it is a landmark in the aviation history. I would like to see more of the similar kind in the days to come.

    Asmod Karki
    13 Aug 11 at 2:24 pm
  • Is Daedalus 87 same with Daedalus 88?

    17 Mar 12 at 3:00 am