WingBoard: Wakeboarding Behind an Airplane

[Aaron Wypyszynski] or [Wyp] for short had a dream as a youngster about jumping out of a plane and “carving through the sky” (paraphrasing the video embedded after the break), so when he grew up [Wyp] went ahead and pursued that dream.

What that boyhood dream produced is [Wyp] offering to pull you through the sky on what looks like a proper model of a blunt nosed paper airplane glider. Seems to be a bit like wakeboarding for skydivers, cause that needed to be a thing.

[Wyp] holds a PhD in Aeronautical Engineering, which explains how the scale model is shown working surprisingly well in the videos. Sadly, the WingBoard Kickstarter campaign fell a little short ($4,637 pledged of $32,000 goal) back in October of 2014. But he has continued to work on the concept, and over the last few months has been posting video demonstrations of a 40% scale model of the current prototype.

Being towed down the runway strapped to this thing during takeoff… what could possibly go wrong? Still, if skydiving (and perhaps snowboarding while doing so) has lost its buzz for you, this is a worthy escalation for thrill-seekers.

Here at Hackaday we like our dreams of a flying human or a flying Ford Pinto as much as the next guy or gal, but we also try to keep our feet on the ground.

36 thoughts on “WingBoard: Wakeboarding Behind an Airplane

    1. Not gonna lie…that’s exactly what I was thinking, and I myself have mused over the feasibility of such a thing ever since I first watched the show.

      Which was a loooong-ass time ago.

    1. Ehhh. It doesn’t matter WHAT you’re flying, but if you’re flying and someone throws a rock or a toilet seat at you, you have a big chance of dying. Even a 747 will not tolerate a large-enough rock.

      The good news is, rocks are kind of rare up in the sky.

        1. “[Wyp] holds a PhD in Aeronautical Engineering”… OH DV82XL, please tell me more about how this project won’t work as envisioned… Not that a PhD comes close to granting infallibility on a particular subject matter, but the successful iterations of this project and the fact the most recent 40% scale variant works great towed aloft behind a tow aircraft (see Wyp youtube channel) leads me to trust the designer just a little bit.

          Anecdotally, I’ve designed and flown many flying wing and delta style model RC aircraft over the years and they have excellent flight and stability characteristics. Aircraft towing has been performed routinely in the full scale sail plane community for decades and turbulence is a non-issue with sufficient tow line. /. 02

          1. The thing is I don’t have to prove why it won’t work, he has to prove it will. His qualifications are not relevant, the history of aviation is littered with failures designed by the qualified and having spent forty years in the industry I know too well that it is easy for anyone to get caught up in their own vision. I could have retired earlier if I had a dime for every lighter-than-air concept I saw come and go, for example. We all are susceptible to a certain amount of tunnel vision when we have ‘done the numbers’ and I think that’s happened here.

            Specifically the issue I see with this design is that there are going to be parts of the flight envelop, particularly close to the ground, that is going to be too narrow to be reasonably safe and this has nothing to do with the length of the towline. Sailplanes are not a good reference here because of the length of the wings and the speed that those wings start to fly.

            If the idea was to deploy from the tow aircraft in flight and at altitude, then maybe; taking off from the ground, no. The fact that the latter is even being considered makes me have serious doubts about the project.

          2. So, you’re behind the Piper Pawnee tow plane and their engine quits/towline breaks etc. at 90′ AGL and 65 kts of airspeed…too low to parachute, no brakes, nearly at a stall with a poor glide ratio and you’ll be a bowling ball off the top when you touch the ground.

            The design might be sound, but the flight cycle isn’t at all safe.

            Tow plane engine failure on takeoff or other problems near the ground at slow speed would be catastrophic with this design unless it could show a decent slow glide/controllability which is unlikely with the low aspect ratio wing design.

            Then there’s the problem of *stopping* or getting off the thing – landing would be like skiing onto asphalt and expecting to stay upright (don’t ask how I know about this). Even Yves Rossy stops in midair by shutting the engines down and parachuting.

          3. So he’s actually intending to take off on this thing? Rather than climbing out of the plane once he’s at altitude? At least when he’s actually up in the air, his parachute will work, and the plane’s level and going in a straight line. Takeoff and landing are the most dangerous part of any flight. I really can’t imagine taking off being dragged behing a plane like that. Must have nuts of titanium and a brain of concrete if that’s actually the plan.

            That said, getting the wing out of the door, while in flight, is going to be a challenge. I’d go with a tether already tied to the tail, brought inside the cabin, with him standing ready attached to it. When it’s time for him to go out and fly, open the door and kind of fall out of it, pretty soon he’ll end up behind the tail with the line taut.

            Still probably one of the most dangerous things you can do. Yves Rossy’s contraption looks safe by comparison. Free-flying with no vehicle around you must be a hell of a thrill to make people do that.

            I think I’d be happier with a load of helium balloons tied to my waist. You think you could jump like you were on the moon, if you had 90% of your weight taken up by balloons?

          4. @ DV82XL : Uhhh, yeah, you actually kinda do – as soon as you make the mistake of making an absolute assertion like you did there. “I doubt this will work” does not require proof. “This will not work” however does. You should look up “onus probandi” some day.

          5. I still don’t have to prove anything because this is not about dialectics or rhetoric, it’s about a real-world issue. I don’t have to prove or disprove anything about this craft, the person putting the design forward does, and that – particularly when someone is looking for investors – is where the rubber hits the road.

    1. I think coping with the utter terror of take-off is going to be the biggest thing. Once you’re up in the air, you feel you’re supposed to be there (well, sat inside the passenger cabin at least). It’s the interim period between ground and air that’s worrying. At that point he won’t be flying so much as hanging.

      Does he take off hanging behind it, or does he climb out of a door like a parachutist once it’s up?

    1. So, just because something slightly similar failed, this is going to fail too? It’s not a sport I would ever try, but as a RC plane tinkerer I can see this doable. The towline gives a lot of stability and forgivingness to the contraption.
      Only the take off is real risky, you don’t want to plow into the ground after taking off too soon. Then it takes a few minutes before your parachute will be of any help. Flying this thing without a tow would be very tricky: a flying wing [plane] is usually not very stable in pitch.

  1. 30 comments and all negatives o_0
    guys i’m sure you re good at comments, but he did a 40% scale
    40% guys, it’s already something
    looks everyone know it will not work, someone to imagine some dynamic stabilisation? or think some take off and landing transition as a glider? wonder if it could be safer behind a seaplane?
    curious to see any achievement from the 30 brains above , if any

  2. 40% scale is good but did he put a 30 Kg dummy human on the wing to simulate a 75 Kg real human ?
    I am worried about stability with all the weight above the wing.
    I expect this stuff to go upside down quite quickly.

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