On this day in history, 1937, the Pedaliante (Italian for “Pedal Glider”) flew approximately 1 kilometer outside of Milan. The human-powered aircraft was designed and constructed by Enea Bossi and Vittorio Bonomi, and it is arguably credited with making the first entirely human-powered flight in 1936 during a practice trial.
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In 1936, the Italian government created a contest that offered 100,000 lire for a one kilometer human-powered flight. Unfortunately, the contest was only open to Italian citizens. Despite Bossi’s American citizenship, he decided to enter the contest anyway.
Bossi’s monoplane had a 58 foot wingspan with an area of 252 square feet. It also had two laminated balsa wood propellers of about 6.2 feet in diameter. The pilot of the Pedaliante sat semi-upright and would pedal to transmit power via a bicycle chain to an overhead transverse shaft that was bevel-geared to the propellers.
On March 18, 1937 the aircraft was pedaled for an entire kilometer by a pilot named Emilio Casco. However, a catapult was used to launch the Pedialante nine meters into the air, thus eliminating the aircraft from winning the competition.
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