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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film deservedly won the Academy Award for Documentary, Short
Subject. There will be spoilers ahead:
Mankind has sought human-powered flight since ancient times, with not much success for most of that time. In 1959, the Royal Aeronautic Society, based in London, began offering The Kremer Prize for the first successful human-powered flight, one capable of meeting rather exacting condition. In 1973, the RAS increased the value of the prize sufficiently to cause Paul MacCready, an engineer to start working on the idea. Also a hang-gliding enthusiast, MacCready figured that if you could design something lightweight enough and with the correct wing size, you could compensate for the lack of human muscle power and manage to get a plane aloft using only a human cyclist as the "engine".
He and his friends and family worked on the project when and as they could, over roughly four years, from 1973 to 1977. They filmed the project themselves and this documentary is the end result. It details the many setbacks and achievements occurring along the way.
This is a fascinating look at an incredible effort to fly under human power. A DVD commemorating the 30th anniversary is available and it's most decidedly worth watching. Most recommended.
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