May 18, 2011 at 1:49 PM ET
Judy Wexler pedaled furiously and, for a few fleeting seconds, achieved what no other human has officially done before — she lifted a human-powered helicopter off the ground.
The flight is still awaiting confirmation from the National Aeronautics Association, but from the perspective of University of Maryland students working on the project, and a video of the attempt, the aircraft appears to have achieved liftoff of 3 to 5 inches, with a hover time of 4 seconds.
An announcement from the aeronautics association is pending.
The X-shaped helicopter, called Gamera, has 42-foot diameter rotors at each end of 60-foot long crossbars. A pilot's module is suspended from the middle, where Wexler, a biology student, sat and pedaled with feet and hands. Pilot included, the contraption weighs just over 200 pounds.
The liftoff flight is a milestone on a path winning the $250,000 Sikorsky Prize, an X-prize like contest for human-powered helicopters. Winning the prize requires keeping the helicopter aloft for at least 60 seconds and reaching a height of 10 feet.
To see the feat for yourself, check out the video above. The flight comes at about 3 minutes.
An ecstatic Brandon Bush, a graduate student in the university's school of engineering and project team member, says they'll review the tape but, "it is definitely a world record for us, first woman in a human-powered helicopter, maybe even a time record."
John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by hitting the "like" button on the Cosmic Log Facebook page or following msnbc.com's science editor, Alan Boyle, on Twitter (@b0yle).