Manned Ornithopters
 Full History
 History Archive

 Getting Started
 How to Design & Build
 Competition Info
 Design Tools

 Design Manual
 Free Plans

 Teachers Guide
 Web Site Links

 About the Society
 Contact Info


Ornithopter History Archive

Articles, documents, and videos detailing some of the history of flapping-wing flight. With appreciation to Jack Stephenson, Darren Worley, Horst Räbiger, Deutsches Museum, and others for providing content.

From the Ornithopter Video Archives

  Erich von Holst - Includes two ornithopters from the 1940s, plus slow-motion footage of bird and insect flight and Holst's "thrust-wing" rotary-driven model.
     PH Spencer's Seagulls - These engine-powered ornithopters flown c.1958 used the aeroelastic membrane wing design still used in most ornithopters. This clip shows close-ups of the mechanism and some flight scenes.
  PH Spencer's Orniplane - The first known radio-controlled ornithopter. It was flown in 1961.

What's all the flap in Oklahoma City?
by Larry Kruse, Flying Models, December 1985. This article is a snapshot of ornithopter modelling in the mid-1980s. It describes some of the indoor competition events and introduces the Ornithopter Modelers Society (now Ornithopter Society).

The complete book of model aircraft, spacecraft, and rockets
by Louis H. Hertz, Bonanza Books, 1968. Partial book chapter describing engine-powered ornithopters of Harry D. Graulich and Percival H. Spencer. The chance discovery of this book in a local library, in the early 1990s, brought Spencer's previously unknown work to light within the ornithopter community, and led to a proliferation of new radio controlled ornithopters borrowing from Spencer's simple and effective design.

Everyman's guide to Ornithopters
by John White, Aero Modeller, May and June 1993. Explains the phased biplane system used by the author. Anyone interested in free-flight ornithopter competition should read this.

Ornithopter Experiments
by D.J. Laidlaw-Dickson, Aeromodeller, October 1946. The article gives an overview of various rubber and engine-driven ornithopters of the time. Most interesting is the reference to a successful engine-driven ornithopter, which was known to the author, but not known to those of us who were building ornithopters twenty years ago.

Flapping Wing Flight in Nature and Science
by Karl Herzog, Aeromodeller Annual, 1964-1965, pages 44-57. Describes various manned and unmanned ornithopters. Construction details for the innovative rubber-powered ornithopters of Erich von Holst. Translated and condensed from Herzog's series of articles in Mechanikus. For the complete series of articles in German, visit www.ornithopter.de.

Man Powered Flight in 1929 by Alexander Lippisch
Detailed account of Lippisch manned ornithopter. Journal of the Royal Aeronautical Society, Volume 64, July 1960.

Typenhandbuch des deutschen Luftfahrttecknik
by Bruno Lange, Bernard und Gräfe Verlag, Koblenz, 1986. Page 229. Describes two manned ornithopters flown by Adalbert Schmid of Pause aircraft company in 1942 and 1947. Also describes the Mücke sport plane developed by Schmid in 1939. (German with English translation)

Ich revolutioniere mit schlagenden Schwingen die Sportfliegerei
by Adalbert Schmid, Weltluftfahrt, Volume 1, Issue 9, March 1950, page 195. Adalbert Schmid describes his manned ornithopter flights of the 1940s. With photos of the 1942 ornithopter prior to addition of motor. (German with English translation)

Deutsche Luftwacht Modellflug
NS Fliegerkorps, December 1943. Newsletter with photos and description of some early engine-powered ornithopters. Construction details are provided. (German language)

Schwingenflugmodell des NSFK
by Alexander Lippisch, NS Fliegerkorps, Berlin, 1938. Theoretical treatment of flapping wings. It was published with the large rubber-powered ornithopter Libelle on our plans page. (German language)

Schwingenflugmodelle Chalupsky
Flugsport, 1937. Ornithopters of Vincenz Chalupsky, powered by compressed air. (German language)

Flip, Flop, the Ornithop!
Model Airplane News, April 1972. An article about Ken Johnson's indoor, rubber-powered ornithopters.

Spencer's Ornithopter
Model Airplane News, February 1999. The story of Percival Spencer's Orniplane, the world's first radio-controlled ornithopter, and its restoration by Faye Stilley, which provided for the first time detailed design information on this historic flying machine.

Si près du But, Yves Rousseau
Actualizés, June 2006. Yves Rousseau's manned ornithopter, based on an ultralight airplane, which made a 100 meter flight in 2005. (French and English)

MEMS Wing Technology for a Battery-Powered Ornithopter
Pornsin-sirirak, Lee, Nassef, Grasmeyer, Tai, Ho, Keennon. Caltech Micromachining Laboratory. Details the development of Caltech's micro air vehicle ornithopter, Microbat.