Every video of human-powered flight has the plane or helicopter so close to the ground that it benefits from ground-effect. Is there any exception to this rule, i.e. a still-air-level-ground human powered altitude record that is high enough to leave ground effect?

  • $\begingroup$ I know paragliders have sometimes achieved impressive altitude records from riding thermals. But that's not exactly human-powered. $\endgroup$
    – Roy Tinker
    Feb 21, 2020 at 22:44

2 Answers 2


The FAI's photo of Daedalus shows its height above the sea to be considerably more than its wingspan, putting it out of ground effect.
(Wikipedia says that most of the flight was 15 to 30 feet high, well within ground effect because the wingspan was 112 feet.) daedalus airplane over the sea

I couldn't find any official FAI record for height achieved by a human-powered aircraft, though.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It's hard to tell how high it is. Such a light weight plane will not cause any noticeable downwash effects on the water even if it were very low. $\endgroup$ Mar 2, 2020 at 23:26
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It's not the light weight that matters: after all, it also doesn't need much. The low 'downwash effect' is primarily due to high aspect ratio. Or in other words, the ground effect is determined not so much by the wingspan (relative to height) but rather by the wing chord. $\endgroup$
    – Zeus
    Mar 3, 2020 at 0:33
  • $\begingroup$ This source says the Daedalus never climbed much above 30 feet on its record flight - news.mit.edu/1993/daedalus-0106 . Of course it goes without saying that in photo, the wingpsan appears dramatically smaller than it actually is, due to foreshortening. The wingspan appears to be not much longer than the longitudinal (tip of nose to tip of tail) length of the aircraft, when in reality it is vastly greater than that. $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2020 at 13:19

Yes, some of the prizes awarded to pioneering human-powered aircraft had terms stating specifically that the aircraft must rise above ground effect for some given time period.

  • $\begingroup$ More details to be added as I encounter them... $\endgroup$ Mar 2, 2020 at 23:46
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    $\begingroup$ Do you have any sources for your claims? $\endgroup$
    – dalearn
    Mar 3, 2020 at 13:04
  • $\begingroup$ I fail to see how it answer the question. As i understand, the OP asks for specific examples. $\endgroup$
    – Manu H
    Mar 3, 2020 at 17:22

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