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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 August, 2003, 20:46 GMT 21:46 UK
Model plane goes transatlantic
Remote controlled transatlantic plane team
The plane flew at 270 metres over the Atlantic Ocean on autopilot
An international team of model aeroplane enthusiasts say they have managed the first successful flight by a lightweight remote-controlled plane across the Atlantic.

US, Canadian and Irish engineers worked together to ensure "The Spirit of Butts Farm" - named after its testing site - landed safely in County Galway, Ireland on Monday 11 August, some 38 hours after it took off from Canada.

The balsa wood and mylar plane flew 3,039 kilometres (1,888 miles) using satellite navigation and an autopilot system overseen by engineers and radio operators using laptop computers.

If the flight is certified by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, it will break world records for distance travelled by a model aeroplane as well as duration of flight.

In order for the records to be broken, the plane had to weigh less than five kilograms, including its "camping lantern" fuel.

Dave Brown, president of the American Academy of Model Aeronautics, told BBC News Online it had been "pins and needles" waiting for the plane to come into view over the Irish coast.

"When it suddenly appeared over our heads, we were ecstatic," he said.

"We already lost three planes in 2002. We got one of five models this year to travel 500 miles, but they all eventually ended up in the drink apart from this one. This is the first time we've actually done it."

Doubts

Mr Brown said there had been some tense moments, especially when hourly satellite updates pinpointing the plane's whereabouts failed for three hours.

"Then 10 minutes after the team called around to say another attempt had failed, it re-appeared," Mr Brown said.

He established direct radio control of the model after seeing it, before bringing it in for landing close to the designated landing spot on Marrin Beach, County Galway.

Records will be claimed by the team on behalf of Maynard Hill, the plane's designer.

Remote controlled transatlantic plane
Dave Brown: "The hardest thing was keeping the weight down"
"Maynard is deaf and blind now but we communicated with him as the plane came in via mobile phone to his house in Silver Spring, Maryland using special equipment that enabled him to hear us," Mr Brown said.

Maynard Hill, 77, had launched the plane from Cape Spear, Newfoundland after working on what became the record-breaking Tam 5 model for 10 years.

The retired engineer had already achieved previous remote-controlled plane records for altitude and speed.


SEE ALSO:
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11 Apr 01  |  Science/Nature
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18 Aug 03  |  Science/Nature


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