Ein Junge träumt vom Fliegen.


Tight calves, great heights

Can humans rise into the air with just a few turns of a pedal? Yes, we can, if we are in good physical shape and have the right aircraft. Holger Rochelt had both. His father Günther was the inventor of the “Musculair”, an ultra-light human-powered aircraft.

Prize money of 50,000 British pounds was at stake. This was to go to the first person to get an aircraft into the air using only muscle power. Englishman Henry Kremer, a wealthy industrialist, had offered the sum in 1959. The conditions: a flight in a human-powered aircraft that takes off using only the pilot’s own power and travels a figure-of-eight course round two markers 806 meters apart. The flight was allowed to last no more than eight minutes. In addition, the pilot had to fly over a three-meter-high obstacle at the start and finish.

The human-powered aircraft – into the air with ease

For 18 years, inventors all over the world racked their brains. Until American Dr. Paul MacCready finally succeeded. In MacCready’s Gossamer Condor, pilot Bryan Allen achieved the first human-powered flight in 1977. Henry Kremer paid out the large prize money. But he did so grudgingly: he would have liked to see a European win it. So he offered another prize – for the first European. Günther Rochelt was instantly motivated: flight technology was his area of expertise, after all. He had spent a long time working on solar aircraft. So he set to work.

After many experiments, his invention was ready for take-off: the Musculair I, a human-powered aircraft with a 22-meter wingspan and weighing just 28 kilograms. The pilot generated the energy needed to drive the propeller by pedaling. Rochelt’s 17-year-old son Holger agreed to take on the challenge. At just under 56 kilograms, he was lighter than his father and already knew his way around flying. In 1984, on an airfield near Munich, he succeeded in flying the  figure-of-eight in his father’s Musculair I, securing the Henry Kremer Prize for the pair. In the Musculair II, Holger Rochelt ultimately reached an average speed of 44 km/h over 1.5 kilometers in 1985: a world record for this type of aircraft.

Watch the test flight video

(Header: Sunny studio – AdobeStock.com, in the article: COHAUSZ & FLORACK)

Das Muskelflugzeug Musculair
The Musculair in the Deutsches Museum

Test flight location

Oberschleißheim airport, Jägerstraße 1, 85764 Oberschleißheim