Teenager Builds Pedal-Powered Airplane Out of Balsa Wood

by , 09/01/09

plane, pedal power, dutch, netherlands

Lots of kids wish they could build an airplane and fly away, but Dutch teenager Jesse van Kuijk has become one of the rare few to make it happen with his pedal-powered plane made out of balsa wood, polyurethane, and rip-resistant foil. The most impressive part? Van Kuijk built his plane without ever having flown in one before!

plane, pedal power, dutch, netherlands

The Dutchman’s project began in 2006, when van Kuijk started researching pedal-powered planes, including the Gossamer Condor (the first pedal-powered plane to fly a figure-8) and the Gossamer Albatross (the first pedal-powered flight over the English channel).

Over the next few years, the inventor gathered materials and eventually built a plane with 85 foot-wide wings and a bicycle chain attached to a propeller for acceleration. Van Kuijk’s maiden flight last Sunday didn’t go very far–the plane flew 15 feet in the air for a distance of about 45 feet–but eventually he hopes to make an extended journey. That’s not out of the realm of possibility, as van Kuijk is only 19 years old and he built his first plane without constructing a model.

As we mentioned previously, Jesse van Kuijk is far from the first aeronautical buff to build a pedal-powered plane. The Royal Aeronautical Society funds four cash prizes for innovative models, with teams from institutions like Virginia Tech and Pennsylvania State University gunning for first place. But van Kuijk could very well be among the first of an upstart generation of engineers who find new ways to deal with growing aircraft fuel shortages.

Via Spiegel Online

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  1. pigfly August 25, 2012 at 3:04 am

    Well done – what a beautiful propellor design and the crossover power chain – simple, brilliant, Check out Musculair in the Munich museum at Schleissheim. I think youve done well with simpler means!

  2. Nancy Lavander September 11, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    I’m a long time watcher and I just believed I’d drop by and say hi for the very first time. I genuinely take pleasure in your posts. Thanks

  3. blacker1977 January 5, 2011 at 1:22 am

    recumbent style cockpit would be longer and need more support under the body. i.e. a chair vs a bike seat. plus extra lenght = more material = more weight. also he used an existing bike frame im guessing cost was involved.
    so probably quite a few reasons there isnt a recumbent style cockpit.

  4. French Engineers Design... August 25, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    […] there was the bicycle, then the pedalo boat, then the pedal-powered aircraft — and now, thanks to a team of French engineers, the world has the pedal-powered submarine. […]

  5. ThinAirDesigns September 7, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    I just love the media .. he built it out of “balsa wood, polyurethane and rip-resistant foil”. Ahh yes, and not a stitch of aluminum tubing to be seen. LOL

    Nice work by the kid. Kudos.

    Oh, btw … hi JJ


  6. jjcote September 7, 2009 at 8:41 am

    There are few HPAs that have used a recumbent pilot position. In terms of efficiency, there’s probably far more to be gained by using a better propeller than fiddling with the pilot position. The design that he used also appears to be quite simple and lightweight, which are also very important.

  7. Observerx10 September 1, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    Can’t help but wonder why he did not use a more aerodynamic and powerful recumbent style cockpit.

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