Anti Gravity: Lucky Laima; November 1998; Scientific American Magazine; by Mirsky; 1 Page(s)
A television show from the 1970s featured an exceedingly diminutive fellow in evening dress who informed his boss at the start of every episode as to the impending arrival of their guests by hollering, "The plane! The plane!" The recent achievement of another aircraft conjured up the image of that obstreperous raconteur, as perhaps only he would have been small enough to pilot it. His presence, however, would have defeated the flight¿s purpose: the first transatlantic crossing by an unmanned airplane.
The robotic plane, one of a fleet called Aerosondes, is two meters (six feet) long, has a three-meter wingspan and weighs about as much as Herve Villechaize, tipping the scales at a wispy 13 kilograms (29 pounds) or so, depending on how much of its eight liters (two gallons) of fuel is left. The product of an outfit called the Insitu Group in Bingen, Wash., in conjunction with the University of Washington and an Australian group, the Aerosonde, dubbed Laima, departed Newfoundland on August 20. Although it left from an airport at Bell Island, that site was a formality rather than a necessity. The plane actually took off from the top of a speeding car, a launch strategy usually reserved for forgotten bags of groceries.