Manned Airplane Flies On AA Batteries

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It never got more than 17 feet off the ground, and 59 seconds plus 391 meters later it was back on the pavement. (The time matches Orville and Wilbur's third attempt on Dec. 17, 1903; the distance is better by about 214 meters.) Sunday, a team of engineers and students at the Tokyo Institute of Technology flew the first manned airplane powered by conventional dry-cell batteries. The airplane has one seat, a 102-foot wingspan, and carries 160 AA "Oxyride" batteries, which last longer and are more powerful than regular alkalines. The 116-pound pilot weighed nearly as much as the aircraft. "As it soared five meters, people on the ground looked so small to me," said pilot Tomohiro Kamiya. "I did not expect it to take off so beautifully. I realized again how powerful it could be." The project has been underway since January. Sunday's flight, with officials from the Japan Aeronautic Association present, was the aircraft's second time off the ground.