Biplane Design Found In Ancient Fossils


It turns out that the Boeing 727 might not be the true “Jurassic jet.” Just as human aviation pioneers started out flying biplanes, allowing for high lift at low speeds, the early ancestors of birds may have done the same. Researchers Sankar Chatterjee of Texas Tech University and R. Jack Templin of Ottawa, Canada, have found that Microraptor, one of the earliest feathered dinosaurs, might have used a staggered biplane configuration during flight. The creature’s second set of wings, which were attached to the legs, would have been more efficient if held forward to form a lower wing, rather than trailing behind to form double wings like those of a dragonfly. Their study was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Aircraft designers have mimicked many of nature’s flight ‘inventions,’ usually inadvertently,” Chatterjee wrote. “Now, it seems likely that Microraptor invented the biplane 125 million years before the Wright 1903 Flyer.” Microraptor probably weighed about two pounds. Computer simulations were used to demonstrate and compare the various possible flight configurations.