THE KREMER WORLD SPEED COMPETITION
In the early 1980s there was much discussion by the committee of the then called Man-Powered-Aircraft-Group of the RAeS about where we go from here, whether the time was ripe for another competition, and if so what form of competition. The figure eight had been flown. The English Channel had been crossed, and hence in some ways the hopes of 1957, and of centuries before, had been more than realised.
- Muscle-powered-flight was still impractical,
- Flying was restricted to freak calm weather, and
- The aircraft were of monstrous size.
Apart from the obvious need for improvement in these ways there were also the hopes of
- Initiating a sport,
- Maintaining the momentum of development,
- Continuing to encourage the pursuit of excellence, which was seen to imply high-technology,
- Tending towards enabling the man-in-the-street to be the man-in-the-air, which was seen to imply low-technology, &
- Prizes being awarded on a wider basis than previously.
With these aims in view, a working group, the majority of whom had designed successful HPAs, was formed under the chairmanship of Nick Goodhart. A speed competition was chosen as the most likely event to promote as many as possible of the above facets of HPF, and the course was carefully planned in the usual way, with the intention being that it be just beyond possibility at the current state-of-the-art. Henry Kremer was approached for the financial support which he most generously provided.
Also Henry Kremer had observed, when in the auction rooms of Christie's of London, an impressive bronze sculpture of a winged man striving forward with eyes determinedly fixed on the horizon. Seeing this as representing progress in human-powered-flight he promptly acquired it and presented it to the RAeS, and it now became The Kremer Trophy. Inscribed "L. ALLioT", it is of unknown origin. A replica of the trophy was presented to each successive winner, along with a share of the prize money. The spirit of the competition was, with the foregoing eight points in mind, to aim for maximum speed around a circular mile. It was believed by some that the development of stored-energy (see glossary) might be one path towards a more practical vehicle, although anything taking a long time to wind up was seen as impractical, hence a rule allowing a maximum of 10 minutes for storing energy. At that time, there was no experience of stored energy on HPA since the bungee launches of Mufli 47 years previously. The rules were drafted by Martyn Pressnell and after full discussion in committee, were approved by the Society's council, and published on 4th May 1983 by the Society.
The response was overwhelmingly fast compared with other competitions, as the following narrative shows.
The fastest previous plane, Jupiter, flew at 20 mph. This is equivalent to a mile in three minutes. But to win the first prize of £20,000 this speed must be exceeded around a triangular course. To win a subsequent prize, an entrant must improve on the previous time by 5%. And subsequent prizes are only £5,000. Hence there is a big incentive to be the first. After that, a faster speed is needed for less money. The Chrysalis team and the Gossamer Condor team had co-operated in 1979. It was a Chrysalis designed propeller that had crossed the English Channel, and it was Condor Mylar that covered the vast areas of the wings of the Chyrsalis biplane. In 1983, with news of a new competition, they saw each other as potential rivals. At a meeting in February Paul MacCready, Condor initiator, declared that he would not be competing, but this was met with scepticism by John Langford and others at MIT who had been involved with Chrysalis.
4 MAY 1983 Royal Aeronautical Society Human Powered Aircraft Group, the competition's organisers, announce the rules. Following the publication of these rules, both Langford and MacCready promptly indicate to the organisers their intention to enter the speed competition.
5 MAY 1983 Langford and some of the old Chrysalis team at MIT hold the first design meeting for the aircraft they will call the Monarch. They decide to build a very simple machine, just capable of a 3 minute time.
27 MAY 1983 The old Chrysalis foam-slicer is dug up and restored. The first Monarch parts are made.
28 MAY 1983 MacCready's team, which includes some of the Condor people, start to design their entry for the Kremer World Speed Competition, which will be called the Bionic Bat or Gossamer Swift. These people have the experience of many Condor aircraft, and they have the carbon-fibre technology which they developed.
MAY 1983 Wayne Bliesner starts to add a twisted-rubber energy storage system to his Man-Eagle. This plane had already flown the previous year and is fast and controllable.
14 JUNE 1983 Knowledge of Monarch becomes public
27 JUNE 1983 Construction of Bionic Bat starts
10 JULY 1983 Knowledge of Bionic Bat becomes public
4 AUGUST 1983 Monarch rolls out - and rolls over, causing damage to the airframe.
14 AUGUST 1983 Repaired Monarch makes first flight. This student’s aeroplane is made from aluminium tubes and plastic foam, but carries ingenious energy-storage gear enabling pilot to control motor assistance during "play-back" in flight.
20 AUGUST 1983 Bionic Bat makes first flight. Seen casually from a distance, Bat looks similar to Monarch. But pilot seating, propeller position and wing bracing all differ between the contesting machines.
23 SEPTEMBER 1983 Monarch crashes on development-flight. Fuselage wrecked.
25 SEPTEMBER 1983 Bionic Bat flies course in 2 minutes 39 seconds. Claim is submitted to organisers. Monarch team know they will never beat this by 5%.
13 OCTOBER 1983 Parker MacCready, Bionic Bat pilot, invited by John Langford to describe his experiences to Monarch team.
15 OCTOBER 1983 Monarch team store their aeroplane away and start to redesign the fuselage, which had been a source of problems anyway. Pilot seating will now be recumbent, same as Bat. New version will have variable pitch propeller, an important item when motor assistance is used (see Monarch).
23 NOVEMBER 1983 RAeS disallow the Bionic Bat claim for technical reasons concerned with energy storage.
DECEMBER 1983 A few parts made for Monarch variable pitch prop
JANUARY 1984 Bionic Bat is being modified with a new electrical system, 5 lb (2.3 Kg) heavier. Parker MacCready continues to practice the course with this new system. Gunter Rochelt starts construction of Musculair. This will not use stored energy, being powered only by Holger Rochelt for prize attempts. Man-Eagle is modified to use electrical system.
FEBRUARY 1984 New Monarch fuselage being built secretly, road-testing at night.
29 FEBRUARY 1984 Paul MacCready declares he will dispense with stored energy, and modify wing instead. Span will be increased from 48 to 55.5 ft (14.6 to 16.9 m).
4 APRIL 1984 Langford's new fuselage completed. Plane flies again renamed as Monarch B.
APRIL 1984 MacCready new motorless variant flies as Gossamer Swift.
3 MAY 1984 Pilot Frank Scarabino attempts to fly Monarch B around the course, but new variable-pitch propeller is wrongly set. Attempt aborted.
5 MAY 1984 Scarabino tries again. Crosswind ends flight.
6 MAY 1984 Scarabino completes course - in 3 minutes 0.43
7 MAY 1984 Another attempt with the Monarch B, but Scarabino lands from exhaustion part way around. Scarabino rests for 3 days.
11 MAY 1984 Monarch B team prepare for another attempt. The official observer watches click to denote the commencement of the 10 minute storage period. Frank Scarabino starts to pedal to charge up the batteries. If more than ten minutes are spent on the ground then this excess time gets added to the flight time. The ten minutes are coming to an end when a door zipper jams, the struggle to unsnag this causes precious seconds delay, and Frank takes off 5 seconds late. To get the prize he will now have to fly the course in 2 minutes 55. He climbs to clear the required height of two meters at the starting line and heads for the first turn which is at the end of a runway on Laurence G. Hanscom Field, Bedford, MA. He clears the two markers which represent the short side of the triangle and straightens up for the half mile stretch past the MassPort Civil Terminal, continuing past the control tower towards the last turn. With the new electrical system on Monarch he can ration the amount of charge coming out of the batteries. The idea is that the batteries, his legs and three minutes all get exhausted at the same time - except, there is five seconds to be made up. It isn't just leg work. It isn't even just leg work and also flying a plane as well. The electrical system is another thing to have to think about. On the last turn he opens the "throttle" slightly to get more help from the motor. Now to straighten up for the last quarter mile stretch over the runway and the climb to two meters at the end. Monarch B crosses the line 2 minutes 50 seconds after crossing it the first time; he has made up the five-second-late start. A time of 2 minutes 54.76 seconds is recorded. The Monarch B team have won the £20,000 first prize. John Langford will be able to take his pick of the replicas of the Kremer Trophy. The Monarch team retire from the race, considering that their plane has done the best it ever will. But while others compete for subsequent prizes, they have a longer course in mind - see below.
JUNE 1984 Paul MacCready decides to use stored energy after all. The team prepare an improved system that uses the motor as the generator. This means only one item and less weight to carry. But the increased span remains.
19 JUNE 1984 Holger Rochelt takes Musculair round the figure-eight course, winning the prize for that competition. Now the Musculair can be refined for the speed course. A time of only 4 minutes 5 seconds for the figure-eight shows the potential of this plane.
JULY 1984 Bionic Bat with new motor and 55 ft (16.8 m) wingspan rolls out and makes practice flights. This aeroplane was built from carbon-fibre tube by professionals, and has been refined over several variants. But the electric motor only has an on/off switch.
18 JULY 1984 Parker MacCready flies course in 2 minutes 43 seconds, gaining second prize of £5,000 with the Bionic Bat. The length actually flown to clear the marked out triangle depended on how wide a turn each pilot made, but it can be considered as nominally a mile. On this basis Parker's speed was 22 mph (9.8 m/s).
3 AUG 1984 Musculair gets round speed course in 2 minutes 45 seconds, an improvement on Monarch's time of more than 5%. Rochelt hasn't heard of the Bionic Bat success and thinks he has second prize.
AUG 1984 Continual training and refinements of the plane including reducing tail area improve the Musculair performance.
21 AUGUST 1984 Holger Rochelt completes course in 2 minutes 31 seconds. Speed based on a nominal mile is 24 mph (10.7 m/s).
NOVEMBER 1984 MacCready makes no more major changes to the aeroplane but calls in pilot Bryan Allen, who pedalled the Condors on their prize winning flights.
2 DECEMBER 1984 Bryan Allen clocks time of 2 minutes 23 seconds, improvement on the previous record is 5.8%. A nominal-mile-speed of 25 mph (11.2 m/s). The second time that the Bionic Bat has earned a prize.
FEBRUARY 1985 Musculair is severely damaged in road accident.
1985 Rochelts and Schoberl decide to design and build new plane specifically for speed course. No energy-storage will be used. Good aerodynamics, neat structure and accurate wing-profile. Elliptic chain-wheel.
During this summer Wayne Bliesner, who has been training hard and improving his energy-storage-system makes eight attempts on the course. It is now necessary to complete the course in 2 minutes 15 seconds. He can't quite get round in the required time.
AUGUST 1985 Musculair II nearly complete. Rochelts bring plane to England, hoping to fly at Milton Keynes festival. Musculair II completed at Cranfield, but weather precludes flight. Plane displayed indoors at Milton Keynes.
1 OCTOBER 1985 Holger Rochelt flies Musculair II round speed course in 2 minutes 21 seconds. This is the fastest yet, beating the Bat's 2:23, but not beating it by the required 5%.
2 OCTOBER 1985 For today's record attempt, Holger warms up for two hours and is psychologically prepared by an experienced bike-racer. He beats his yesterday's record by an amazing 19 seconds, covering the course in 2 minutes 2 seconds, thereby qualifying for a Kremer prize, the Rochelt family's third award. This time represents a nominal-mile-speed 30 mph (13.4 m/s), a 15% improvement on the previous winner, 50% better than original target at start of competition.
1986 RAeS close competition, but course still recognised by FAI for speed records
SPEED COMPETITION SUMMARY OF RESULTS
Compare the table below, showing dates of first flights and prizes for this competition, with the fact that after the announcement of the first Kremer Competition, the figure eight, it was 2 years before the first flights of SUMPAC and Puffin, and 18 years and 25 years respectively before prizes were won by the Gossamer Condor and the Musculair I.