Humans have always loved the idea of flying! And who can blame them? Today’s airplanes may be filled with screaming children, stale crackers, and ever-shrinking leg room, but still… Taking to the skies is an awe-inspiring experience, and there’s something about looking out over a sea of clouds that can’t really be explained. Let’s a moment to celebrate 2 pioneers of flight – The Wright Brothers and Leonardo da Vinci!
da Vinci – The Ornithopter
da Vinci’s flying machine was inspired by, surprise, other things that fly! He mentioned bats, birds, and kites as sources of inspiration for the machine. The invention had an impressive wingspan of over 33 feet, with a silk-covered pine frame.
To operate the machine the pilot would lie face down on a board in the center. A crank connected to a rod-and-pulley system provided power, which the pilot would pedal like a bicycle. The machine also had a hand crank for increased power, and a head piece for steering. The machine’s wings were designed to flap in a similar manner to a bird’s.
Unfortunately, while the flying machine may have flown once it was in the air, da Vinci’s machine did not provide enough power to get off the ground. It would have looked pretty cool if it had though!
The Wright Brothers – The Wright Flyer
Though many before them had pondered the idea of man-made machines that could bring humans into the skies, the Wright Brothers were the first to successfully do so.
The Wright Flyer had a wooden frame made of ash and giant spruce. The frame was covered with cotton cloth that was sealed with “canvas paint.”
The real success of their invention, which differentiated the brother’s aircraft from other inventions of their time was the three-axis control they used to manipulate the plane. The wings pivoted the aircraft from side to side. The elevator pitched the aircraft nose-up and nose-down, and the rudder turned the aircraft right and left.
The Wright Flyer was 21.1 ft (6.4 m) in length and had a 40.3 ft (12.2 m) wingspan. The Wrights’ first flight was in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903. It lasted a mere 12 seconds, and traveled 120 ft (36 m). However, later that day, on its 4th flight, it flew 852 ft (255.6 m) in 59 seconds.
So which will it be, the ornithopter or the Wright Flyer? Choose your team and may the best engineer(s) win!