PIONEER: Designer of first man-powered plane said aircraft showed “we can do more with less.” By John Antczak THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Paul MacCready, pioneering designer of the first fully capable human-powered flying machine, has died, a spokesman said Wednesday. He was 81. “Of all his accomplishments, Paul’s greatest contribution may have been his remarkable ability to demonstrate that `impossible’ is no match for human imagination and perseverance,” Tim Conver, chairman, chief executive and president of AeroVironment, said in a statement. In 1979, MacCready had another first when his Gossamer Albatross, also 70 pounds and sporting a 96-foot wingspan, made the first human-powered flight across the English Channel. Allen was also the human engine for that flight, which lasted nearly three hours and covered 22 miles. MacCready was awarded a new Kremer prize of $213,000. During a 10th-anniversary reunion of participants in the Albatross’ flight, MacCready said it was a symbolic achievement. “It helped change people’s perceptions about how we can do more with less,” he said. “We’ve reached an era of limits on Earth, so it is really important.” Born in New Haven, Conn., in 1925, MacCready was a model-plane enthusiast during childhood, soloed as a pilot at age 16 and flew in a Navy flight training program during World War II, according to Aerovironment. He received a bachelor of science degree from Yale University in 1947. He then earned a master’s degree in physics from the California Institute of Technology, followed by a Ph.D. in aeronautics in 1952. In the meantime, through the late 1940s and into the 1950s, he became a national soaring champion and then an international champion while working on sailplane development. He founded an atmospheric science research firm that used small aircraft with instrumentation to study the insides of storms, and then founded AeroVironment, which is involved in unmanned aircraft systems and efficient electric energy systems. In the 1980s, AeroVironment flew human-piloted, solar-powered aircraft, first the Gossamer Penguin, and then the Solar Challenger, which made a 163-mile flight from France to England at an altitude of 11,000 feet. AeroVironment then turned to unmanned, solar-powered, high-altitude aircraft in projects supported by the U.S. Defense Department and then NASA. An aircraft named Pathfinder with a 100-foot wingspan flew to an altitude of 71,400 feet in 1997. The following year, the 120-foot-wingspan Pathfinder Plus topped 80,000 feet. In 2001, a craft named Helios, with a 247-foot wingspan, climbed to an altitude of 96,863 feet. AeroVironment also worked on the GM Sunraycer, a solar-powered car that won a race across Australia in 1987, and proposed to General Motors the concept for the battery-powered GM Impact, which led to the carmaker’s EV-1. MacCready is survived by his wife, Judy; three sons; and two grandchildren.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! MacCready was recently diagnosed with a serious ailment and died in his sleep Tuesday, said Steve Gitlin, a spokesman for AeroVironment Inc. of Monrovia, which MacCready founded in 1971. The family did not wish to disclose details, he said. On Aug. 23, 1977, the MacCready-designed, lightweight Gossamer Condor made the first sustained, controlled flight powered solely by a human. The flight, pedal-powered by pilot Bryan Allen, lasted just 7 minutes but covered a figure-eight course with pylons a half-mile apart at the airport in Shafter The plane, made of aluminum, foam, piano wires and Mylar – a lightweight but strong polyester material – weighed just 70 pounds. The flight won MacCready the $95,000 Henry Kremer Prize, which had been established in 1959, and earned him the title “father of human-powered flight.” MacCready’s retirement as chairman of AeroVironment due to illness was announced Aug. 20 and his death came less than a week after the 30th anniversary of the historic flight.