ORNITHOPTER: PLANE WITH FLAPPING WINGS
Lawrence Hargrave was ahead of his time in aeronautics. Possibly, had he had the technology available to the Wright Brothers and the Europeans in the first decade of the 20th century, he would have flown.
What Hargrave lacked was a suitable power/weight ratio engine, which proved to be the internal combustion engine, available in the 1890s, but still, in Hargrave’s words, ‘a ponderous affair’.
Therefore many of his early experiments were with ornithopters, flapping wings like the birds of the air, for want of a strong enough engine to drive a fixed-wing plane, and light enough to stay airborne. The fact he did achieve flight with his ornithopter (or ornothoper) models was testament to his design and craftsmanship. He even flew his models at the Royal Society meetings, warning the members to protect their heads, to their amusement.
Left: Flying Machine, powered by india rubber bands, 1885.
Right: Hargrave created a rigid-wing aircraft with flapping blades operated by a compressed-air motor (no. 12); it flew 312 ft (95m) in 1891.