‘In theory, it won’t turn over’

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Oxford
daredevil David Kirke is planning to fly a giant inflat­able winged horse from
the base of Mount Olympus in Greece,
across the Mediterranean, to Tripoli,
Libya.The
fifty-nine year old hopes to recreate the mythical flight of Pegasus on a forty
foot high white stallion, with a wingspan of 80ft, following his successful
attempt in 1986 to ‘hop’ across the English Channel in the pouch of an inflat­able
kangaroo.Kirke
founded the Oxford University Dangerous Sports Club in the late seventies,
along with Chris Baker and Ed Hulton. The Club first came to public attention
when Kirke became the first person in the world to do a bungee jump, on 1 April
1979, from the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol. His maiden jump earned him arrest
for ‘disturbing the peace’ and a £100 fine.Kirke
described his latest endeav­our as an “engineering nightmare”. Asked whether he
had an ETA or a rough idea of when Pegasus would be ready, he laughed and
replied, “No ETA. ETAs are a luxury.” He explained that “even a simple thing
like bungee jumping took a great deal of Maths beforehand.”“It
will be a real engineering challenge to build, but no one has ever done it
throughout history. There are hundreds of thousands of images of Pegasus, but
no one has actually seen one fly through the air. In theory it should not turn
over because the wind should hit all the surfaces at the same time. That’s the
theory.”When
completed, Pegasus will be entirely inflatable, made of a specially-designed
fabric, combin­ing strength and lightness. Helium gas will be used for
inflation, rather than hydrogen burners, and the horse will gain height by
offloading ballast and descend by releasing helium. Kirke plans to pilot his
equine companion from a position somewhere near its head, but he will be very
much dependent on the trade winds blowing down through Africa
for direction.The
veteran daredevil and pioneer of ‘extreme sports’ said, “There will be plenty
of nights leading up to it sipping horlicks and biting finger­nails but worries
are just something you have to sort out before you go because otherwise it
spoils the fun when you do.”The
attempt could cost up to £100,000. However, Kirke is encouraged by the fact
that a large number of companies around the world use the Pegasus name and
image, and he believes that this will increase the likelihood of secur­ing
sufficient sponsorship for the projectARCHIVE: 6th week MT 2005

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