THE FULLNESS OF WINGS: The Making of a New Daedalus by Gary Dorsey

THE FULLNESS OF WINGS: The Making of a New Daedalus

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Dorsey, a Connecticut journalist (Northeast magazine, the Hartford Courant, etc.), reports an astonishing reenactment of the Icarus myth as a group of MIT students struggle to master the art of human-powered flight. Kids who grow up surrounded by model rockets and balsa-wood planes often wind up at MIT, as did the motley collection of hackers, radical rocketmen, and assorted fanatics who wagered they could build a workable human-powered aircraft and use professional bicyclists to power it. Headed by Atlanta native John Langford, whose childhood obsession with the Apollo space program led him to win model-rocket contests around the world, the gang dubbed themselves the ""Daedalus Team"" in tribute to Icarus' father, who engineered the wings to escape King Minos' labyrinth, as opposed to Icarus, who crashed. While playing hooky from MIT's stifling aerospace curriculum and various brain-numbing defense engineering jobs to work on ""adding lightness"" to their flying machine, the team hit on the idea of actually pedaling the craft, over the Aegean. Langford ecstatically appointed himself project coordinator, little realizing the toll the overwhelming tasks of fund-raising, organizing, publicizing, and trying to keep iconoclastic artist-engineers on schedule would take on his family life and his career. The project dragged on for years. As the plane crashed, hostility broke out among the crew, sponsors threatened to withdraw support, and the project's ultimate worth grew increasingly questionable, the labyrinth of the Daedalus myth began to take on more significance than the flight itself. In spite of this, the nearly weightless machine got built. As the crew watched it drift silently--like a giant dragonfly--from Crete to Santorini, the years of hardship and frustration were forgotten. Daedalus had risen from the mists of time, and this time they were the engineers of his escape. An inspiring tribute to the entrepreneurial spirit, told with sympathy and commendable style.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Viking