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DeLaurier's Path To Enlightenment

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For DeLaurier, a recently retired professor, the quest to fly the ornithopter took 30 years. "I hadn't planned on this taking most of my career, but I don't regret it," DeLaurier told The Star. "It has been exciting and interesting. Also it's been a worthy project, a worthy quest. You know that age-old saying: 'What's the meaning of life?' Quite frankly, life has meaning if you measure yourself against a worthy goal. And for an aerospace engineer -- who loves aviation history -- this has been a worthy goal." DeLaurier says he was inspired by Leonardo da Vinci and the early pioneers of flight. He started working on his ideas back in the 1970s, and by 1991 had built a remote-controlled ornithopter. The full-size aircraft was built in 1996 and has undergone testing and tinkering ever since.

The story in the Star -- the only news about the flight that we could find -- was written by Debra Black, a staff reporter. Black wrote in a separate story that she shared DeLaurier's fascination with the "flapper." She first met him back in 1984, when she was a young freelancer. Over the years she wrote about his quest several times, and the two became friends. "Somewhere along the way," she writes, "I became equally obsessed with the ornithopter, wondering when it might be finished, if it would ever fly." And when the test flight was set for Saturday morning, she knew she had to be there. "As I waited ... I realized I was just as anxious as [DeLaurier] ... and I was supposed to be an objective bystander." Black concludes that she's not sure what it was about the story that kept her interest. "I suppose it's the same thing that fired the imagination of Leonardo da Vinci and all others who dreamed of flying like a bird -- a wish for airborne freedom."

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