The wings of a model Boeing 767, without engines, move up and down in a slow rhythm, recalling much more organic and natural antecedents.
Project for an Aircraft attends to the origins of human attempts at flight, and proposes an impossible future. From Daedalus, in Greek mythology, who devised arm-powered feathered wings to carry him and his son Icarus out of the labyrinth of King Minos on Crete; to da Vinci's man-powered wings of the Renaissance, these early muscular attempts directly replicated the flight of birds. Hang-gliders and other more practical contemporary versions using high-tech materials and technologies have allowed limited forms of aerodynamic flight. However, the problem of future mass aerial transportation beyond the unsustainable age of hydrocarbon has yet to be resolved.
A typical airliner uses about one gallon of fuel per second, or about five gallons per mile. A 10-hour flight may use 36,000 gallons of fuel. Jet fuel is a petroleum product, either an unleaded kerosene type or a naptha-kerosene blend, not unlike diesel fuel, but designed for typical gas-turbine aircraft engines; it is exempted from taxation, through the Convention on International Civil Aviation of 1947. The airline industry accounts for 2-3 percent of man-made carbon dioxide emissions, which can remain in the atmosphere up to 100 years; a typical flight may generate 800-1600 pounds of carbon dioxide per passenger (about what an SUV generates in a month), making airline travel one of the fastest-growing contributors to global warming. In addition, burning jet fuel produces nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, soot and water vapour; the latter appears as "contrails" behind high-flying jets, contributing to increased cloud cover and more global warming. Nitrogen oxides combine with other chemicals in the upper atmosphere to form ozone, another heat-trapping gas. Attempts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from jet engines may produce up to 40% more nitrogen oxides.
Fleets of retired Boeing 767s, including several from Air Canada's fleet of 30 planes, retired in 2008 after 25 years of service, have been parked at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California prior to scrapping. A surplus 767, stripped of its engines, interior, hydraulics and avionics, then refitted with hinged motorized wings and mounted on a vertical support, forms the core of this proposal.