Los Altos Academy of Engineering

Human Powered Airplane: Main Page

Human Powered Airplane

Welcome to the Los Altos Human Powered Airplane section. Since its inception in 1997, the Los Altos Human Powered Airplane (HPA) project, also known as the Grasshopper, has been one of the longest and most challenging projects undertaken by the students of the Engineering Technology class. More information on the Los Altos Human Powered Airplane can be found in its History section. Photos of the Human Powered Airplane can be found in the LAHPA Gallery on the Photo Galleries page.

In June of 2000 after four years of work, the student team was very close to completing the airplane, and plan to attempt to fly it over spring break in late April. However, in order to fly the plane, the team needed to find an insurance carrier to insure the plane so that they could reserve a hangar at March Air Force Base in Riverside.

“Without insurance, the team was doomed to graduate without a chance to fly Grasshopper. On the last week of school, in a desperate attempt, the team moved Grasshopper to the gym on Friday afternoon. By midnight, she was assembled. With all the cabling tensioned, the skin tight, and the weight and balance checked. At 2 AM disassembly was started. At 5 AM she was moved to the football field and reassembly started.  At 2 PM with all cables in place, Grasshopper was moved to a take-off position (two sheets of plywood) after several prop adjustments and chains to be tensioned. Grasshopper was ready for flight. A breeze was blowing and two of the gravity cables snapped. A decision was made to go for broke. With the team holding the wing sections up with brooms, the flight began. The pilot, Charles Kim, started cranking hard as Grasshopper jumped into the air. She was flying. Everyone was amazed. Years of work and planning. Sixty feet into the flight a propeller blade broke, sending Grasshopper to a crash landing. The right spar snapped on impact.”
-An Account by Bob Franz
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