It not exactly what Spielberg's ET had in mind, but it's as close as you can get to a flying bicycle without extra-terrestrial intervention. The Para-Cycle is a semi-reclined, 3-wheel recumbent bicycle combined with a powered parachute that becomes an ultra-light aircraft capable of cruising at 40kmh over a range of 80km.
When on terra firma, the Para-Cycle functions like a standard recumbent and can be transformed into a powered aircraft by the addition of a rear propeller and a 400sq ft parachute. The propeller is powered by a 40hp, 2-stroke engine that combines with the specially designed "Ram-Air" chute to achieve a climb rate of 500 ft per minute after a take-off run of only 15-45 metres depending on wind condition.
The chute is shaped like an airfoil and achieves the curved upper-surface necessary to create lift by trapping and pressurising air that enters the canopy via openings in the front.
Because of the fact that you are already flying a fully deployed parachute plus ability to take-off and land on level, open ground (as opposed to sometimes treacherous cliff-tops as in hang-gliding), powered parachuting has been described as one of the safest forms of flight ever invented.
The complete Para-Cycle costs around US$10,000 and an upgrade to a 70hp engine is available. For further information on availability and full specifications visit www.para-cycle.com
For further reading on a high-tech bicycle that has achieved totally human-powered flight, see Gizmag's story on the Daedalus HPV.
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