1485: Flying Machine Design
Innovation: Flying Machine Design
By: Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci was accredited as an engineer and perhaps the first European interested in a pragmatic solution to flight. Leonardo da Vinci was captivated with flight and extensively studied the flight of birds in order to better his understanding for how flight works. He designed a light hang glider as well as a human powered ornithopter. The ornithopter was to have a wingspan of over 33 feet and was to be constructed of pine covered in raw silk. The pilot would lie face down on the center on a board and would pedal a crank to power the system. The machine also consisted of a hand crank for increased power and a headpiece for steering.  Although his designs were not constructed at the time, it created a powerful notion of human-powered flight, which did not previously exist. This concept reemerged over the next four centuries due to Leonardo da Vinci’s original interest and designs. In 2003, a documentary Leonardo’s Dream Machines built and tested the original designs; some of the designs proved successful while others failed.