In 1998, aircraft designer Paul MacCready looks at a planet on which humans have utterly dominated
nature, and talks about what we all can do to preserve nature s balance. His contribution: solar
planes, superefficient gliders and the electric car.
Through his life, Paul MacCready turned his mind, energy and heart toward his two passions: flight
and the Earth. His early training as a fighter and glider pilot glider pilots still use the
MacCready speed ring he developed after World War II led him to explore nontraditional flight and
nontraditional energy sources.
In the 1970s, he and his company, AeroVironment, designed and built two record-breaking
human-powered planes: the Gossamer Condor, the first human-powered aircraft to complete a one-mile
course set by the Kremer Prize, and the Gossamer Albatross, the first to cross the English Channel.
The planes avian names reveal the deep insight that MacCready brought to the challenge -- that
large birds, in their wing shape and flying style, possess an elegant secret of flight.
He then turned his wide-ranging mind toward environmentally responsible design, informed by his
belief that human expansion poses a grave threat to the natural world. His team at AeroVironment
prototyped an electric car that became General Motors pioneering EV-1. They explored alternative
energy sources, including building-top wind turbines. And they developed a fleet of fascinating
aircraft -- including his Helios solar-powered glider, built to fly in the very top 2 percent of
Earth s atmosphere, and the 2005 Global Observer, the first unmanned plane powered by hydrogen
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