New Zealand daredevils like flying by wire
'Capsule' suspended from wires reaches 75 mph
August 18, 1997
Web posted at: 11:34 p.m. EDT (0334 GMT)
PAEKAKARIKI, New Zealand (CNN) -- Daredevils in New Zealand
are flocking to this small, coastal town north of Wellington
to be strapped into a piece of aluminum and hurtle through
the air at breakneck speeds.
It is called Fly by Wire, and it is the closest most of them
will ever get to flying in a fighter jet.
The concept is rather like dangling a pen from a piece of
string and swinging it around a central point. But the "pen,"
in this case, can control its speed and direction.
The pilot is strapped into a 13-foot (4 meter), rocket-
shaped, aluminum capsule that is suspended from a single
point among wires strung between tall hills.
The plane is then lifted off the ground and winched backwards
up a slope until the pilot's feet are almost directly above
When it has gone as far as it can, he grasps the throttle and
the release lever simultaneously, and the ride begins.
The plane, which is powered by a 24-horsepower, rear-mounted
engine, flies to a maximum height of 200 feet (65 meters) and
within a teeth-gnashing 5 feet (1.5 meters) of the ground in
Top speed: 75 mph
During the six-minute, $82 (U.S.) ride, the plane can reach a
top speed of 75 mph (120 kph). It also lets the pilot
experience both weightlessness and three times the force of
It is impossible to hit anything, but the plane does have a
kill-switch that enables the pilot to stop the motor in the
event of panic. Inventor Neil Harrap says only one person has
used it since the operation began in May.
Harrap has only one Fly by Wire in operation, but he is not
lacking for suitors. He has been approached by several
companies, and by people from Hong Kong, the United States,
Indonesia and Australia.
All of them want to buy the system, but Harrap has registered
the trademark and patent in 21 countries, and so far he's not
Reuters contributed to this report.