Hang Glider

British Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association

British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association

Human Powered Flight

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Human powered flight has been out of public awareness since the English Channel was crossed nearly 30 years ago with Bryan Allen in the Gossamer Albatross. The majority of young people in the UK are probably unaware that it is possible to take off from level ground and fly with human power at all. The only exception around the world is the Japanese human powered flight competition at Lake Biwa where there is healthy competition and many great flights have been made.


In 1959 the Royal Aeronautical Society invited the Man Powered Group of the College of Aeronautics at Cranfield to become a society group. Originally known as the RAeS Human Powered Flight group, the name was later changed to the RAeS Human Powered Flight group in recognition of the many successful flights by woman pilots.

In 2012 it was agreed that the group would also become part of the BHPA free flight community to enable them to fly their aircraft as BHPA members with the usual BHPA third party insurance cover.

The RAeS Human Powered Flight group has always been interested in promoting human powered flight as a sport and encouraging wider participation in the activity. The major Marathon and Sports aircraft prizes totalling £150,000 are still to be won, but these competitions are at the edge of the possible and only attract very occasional entries, in fact there have been no serious attempts in the last 20 years. So it was felt that another approach was needed to get the activity going.

The idea of the Icarus Cup was conceived as a way to inspire more people to design, build and fly aircraft themselves and provide an environment for them to meet, compete and share knowledge, in the hope that competition improves the breed.

Airglow at the 2012 Icarus Cup

Following the success of the inaugural HPA Icarus Cup in July 2012 when a total of five teams put their aircraft designs to the test, the Royal Aeronautical Society have announced that the event will be held again this year.

The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) have also approved the Icarus Cup 2013 as an FAI Second Category Event in the hope that the competition will further develop into a FAI Category 1 World Championship event in 2014. The RAeS are working closely with FAI and Royal Aero Club (RAeC) in order to achieve this in the future.

The 2013 Icarus Cup Competition will take place on 19 – 28 July 2013 at Sywell Aerodrome, Northampton, and over those 9 days competing teams will try and complete the following series of challenges designed to test all aspects of Human Powered Flight.

  1. Duration
  2. A 200m sprint race
  3. A 1km race
  4. A slalom course
  5. A takeoff performance and landing accuracy task
  6. Distance around a trianugular course

For further information about the 2013 Icarus Cup Competition, including competition rules and regulations, and registration information, please visit the Icarus Cup page on the Royal Aeronautical Society website.