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Flight Exploration Sighting

Published by Robin on Sun Dec 5, 2004 8:51 pm
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The cover story of today’s Los Angeles Times Magazine Lower, Slower, Nearer by Margaret Wertheim brings news of X Prize team Flight Exploration’s leader, Graham Dorrington.

Like the iconic flyboys of “The Right Stuff,” most men who take to the skies dream of going higher, faster and farther. Over the Mojave Desert this summer, Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne streaked through the stratosphere to become the first private plane to fly into space, and off the coast of California, NASA has been testing a scramjet that reaches a speed of Mach 9. Yet if the history of flight is usually told as a succession of macho extremes, it also encompasses another, decidedly more leisurely tradition: on the one hand the fast, on the other hand the buoyant. Where the former overcomes the dictates of gravity by sheer brute force, the latter makes its claim to the sky through mere lightness of being—the fleet versus the floating.

Just weeks after the historic flight of SpaceShipOne, another experimental flying machine was being put through its paces in the jungles of Guyana. Airship No. 6, a tiny two-man dirigible, is the latest iteration in a series of lighter-than-air craft designed and built by British engineer Graham Dorrington. In contrast to the record-shattering ethos of Tom Wolfe’s testosterone-fueled test pilots, Dorrington fantasizes about flying lower, slower and nearer. As a lecturer in engineering at Queen Mary, University of London, he has devoted much of his life to building airships that putter through the sky at the pace of a human stroll. In 1991 he pedaled Britain’s first human-powered airship from Southampton to the Isle of Wight, and in June he journeyed to Guyana to test his latest and most quixotic design.

Read the whole article or pick up the paper — great photos!

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