News to get in a flap about


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The Independent Online

It was a shaky video of such an astonishing feat that it was hard to imagine it wasn’t an act of computer-generated viral marketing. In a clip that had been viewed more than a million times by last night, a Dutch hobbyist appeared to have succeeded where Da Vinci and generations of dreamers had failed – and flown like a bird.

Jarno Smeets claimed to have worked for more than a decade to fulfil an ambition inspired by his grandfather’s diagrams of a flying bicycle. An engineering degree from Coventry University told Smeets the fantasy machine could never work, but he decided to better it with the help of a computer games controller and a smartphone. The devices would gauge the strength and motion of his flapping, telling small motors strapped to his back by how much they should assist. The purported results are wonderful, as Smeets flies over a hundred metres.

All very convincing - the flight amazed the inner schoolboy in at least one journalist at The Independent - but will Smeets’s story fall out of the sky faster than Icarus? The Flying Dutchman did not respond to an email from the Independent yesterday, nor to any other journalist, despite issuing a press release inviting enquiries, and providing a convincing back-story on his blog, Meanwhile CGI and marketing experts said the video had some of the hallmarks of a viral. The clip features products made by Nintendo and smartphone firm HTC, neither of whom had commented last night. Coventry University said they had no record of a Jarno Smeets, while other holes appeared in his CV.

Well, Jarno, if that’s you’re name, if this whole thing turns out to be a fake, you may wish to start work on a genuine pair of wings because those among us who were initially fooled might come after you to ask how you dared fuel our schoolboy fantasies and then shoot them down.

See the clip at