Almost everyone is familiar with "The Hoverboard" from "Back to the Future II." But do you remember the cartoon "Tale Spin" and a character named "Kit Cloudkicker," who flew through the skies while being towed on a boomerang-shaped airfoil? That dream is about to become a reality, called The Wingboard.
The Wingboard is the patent-pending creation of a company called WYP Aviation. The Wingboard combines the thrills of wake boarding, skydiving, and wing suit flying, while you're holding onto a tether as if you're water skiing. And that tether is attached to a plane! How do you fly it? You start by standing on top the Wingboard at your local airport, holding the rope behind a plane. Then the plane takes off, pulling you behind it like you're water skiing.
The Wingboard provides lift, and is designed to provide a stable center of gravity for the rider. The rider stands upright, attached to the Wingboard in bindings like a snowboard has. Its Y-shaped tow line is designed to reduce forces that the rider has to endure, approximately 80 pounds, but you're still being pulled at over 100MPH — far faster than a rational person would ever stand behind a boat. The tow rope design also limits the pitch angle, helping the rider maintain stability. The rider controls the Wingboard by leaning forward or backward, or side to side, which changes the angle of attack and raises or lowers the rider behind the plane. Sensors underneath the rider's feet also provide more control input, allowing the rider to perform aileron rolls. Yes, aileron rolls. While standing on a wing, being towed behind a plane.
At this point, the Wingboard is still just a 1:6 scale concept which is what we see flying in the video. It certainly looks like it would be fun to do, but you'd need a really smooth runway. Imagine hitting a bump during takeoff, and falling off the board onto the runway. Ouch! The Wingboard is not completely unsafe, and WYP Aviation says, "The goal of the WingBoard design was to make it safe enough that an average person would someday be able to ride it." Both the rider and the Wingboard are equipped with parachutes, designed to open even at low altitudes. The Wingboard will remain attached to the rider, unless the ride becomes unstable. The rider would then glide back to earth using the parachute. If the Wingboard had to be jettisoned from the rider its parachute allows it to be recovered safely. Automated release of the tow rope and Wingboard are built in, and would occur if the rider were to lose control. The tow tethers can also be released remotely by the pilot or an observer on the ground.
WYP Aviation was founded by Aaron "Wyp" Wypyszynski, who started flying planes at age 13. He earned Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Aeronautical Engineering from Purdue University. Does the Wingboard sound like something you'd want to try? I can picture it as a competitive sport within the X-Games. Did the video convince you how awesome this thing is? The Wingboard Kickstarter campaign currently has $1,113 of its $32,000 goal, with 35 days left.