A brief history of Kanellos Kanellopoulos and Daedalus

By Willie Bodenstein


Kanellos Kanellopoulos, (born 25 April 1957) is a Greek former cyclist. He was also the pilot and human engine for the 1988 MIT Daedalus project, completing the 72.4 mi (115.11 km) flight from Crete to the Greek island of Santorini in 3 hours, 54 minutes. This feat was equivalent to two back-to-back marathons.

The craft was named after the mythological inventor of aviation, Daedalus, and was inspired by the Greek myth of Daedalus' escape from Crete using manmade wings.

Photo © National Aeronautics and Space Administration / www.dfrc.nasa.gov

During the flight, the Daedalus flew primarily between 15 and 30 feet in altitude, and was accompanied by several escort vessels. The speed of the flight was helped by a tailwind, but this also made a head-on landing approach to the narrow beach hazardous, especially with crowds of spectators on the sand. Kanellopoulos maneuvered the aircraft to land more into the wind and parallel with the length of the beach. As the right wing extended over the black sand beach, the heat rising from the beach lifted that wing, turning the aircraft back towards the sea. This effect prevented the pilot from getting the whole aircraft onto the beach.

The flight ended in the water (7 meters from Perissa Beach on Santorini, according to the official record), when increasing gusty winds caused a torsional failure of the tail boom. Lacking control, the airplane then pitched nose-up, and another gust caused a failure of the main wing spar. Kanellopoulos swam to shore.


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