Gossamer Albatross

The Gossamer Albatross (English for cobwebs ( very thin ) Albatros ) was one driven by human muscle power aircraft, designed and built by a team led by Paul MacCready on behalf of NASA. With this aircraft Bryan Allen crossed on June 12, 1979 in 2:49 hours the English Channel between Folkestone and Cap Gris -Nez, distance 35.8 km, and won the second Kremer Prize.


The aircraft was equipped with a large, forward -lying stabilizer blades, as well as the predecessor aircraft Gossamer Condor, unusually constructed. The Gossamer Albatross Gossamer Condor was controlled as well, by a twist of the wings. The Canard principle ( German canard principle), with the front -lying areas, has been known since the brothers Wright. The attached some meters in front of the pilot wing was added for stabilization of the flight about the transverse axis.

The skeleton was in the Gossamer Albatross no longer made ​​of aluminum tubes, but from a carbon fiber frame with ribs made ​​of polyester, coated with a thin, transparent plastic skin of biaxially oriented polyester film.


  • Length: 10.40 m
  • Wingspan: 29,80 m
  • Height: 4.90 m
  • Mass of the airplane: 32 kg
  • Total mass with pilot: 100 kg

The aircraft was moved by a large, two-bladed propeller with pedal drive. It reached a maximum speed of 29 km / h with an average altitude of 1.5 meters. The in relation to the hull oversized, glider -like wings allowed a flight with minimal effort. In calm weather only 0.2 kW were needed to keep the aircraft in the air. This power could also be applied by a trained cyclist.

MacCreadys team has simultaneously built two identical versions of the Gossamer Albatross. The aircraft, with the successful crossing of the English Channel, is now on display at the Udvar- Hazy Center of the Smithsonian Institute. The second preparation was tested intensively in 1980 Langley / Dryden Flight Research Program of NASA and is now in the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington.

A succession of aircraft Albatross was 1980, the solar-powered Gossamer Penguin. This aircraft, the much smaller (3/4 the size of the Gossamer Albatross ), but was faster with the same basic design for this was originally built as a reserve in the event that the weather conditions on the English Channel did not allow a flight with the slower Gossamer Albatross. After the successful flight of the Gossamer Albatross across the English Channel this aircraft was converted into a solar plane.