The First Aeromodelers

Although Orville and Wilbur Wright successfully flew the first heavier-than-air, powered, man-carrying aircraft in 1903, aeromodelers had already been “flying” for more than 100 years. Simple pull string helicopters were available as early as the 14th century and Sir George Caley, known as the father of aviation, was experimenting with bow-powered helicopters and gliders by 1804.

Throughout the 19th century, individuals from around the world continued to test theories with models, all attempting to understand flight. Although initially many of these early aeromodelers used gliders, they quickly developed powered aircraft, utilizing steam, rubber bands, compressed air, and even gunpowder. In this portion of the gallery photographs and reproductions of these early aircraft allow visitors the opportunity to see the many different types of designs these first aeromodelers produced.

The Sakkara Bird of Egypt, dating to about 300 B.C., featured a wing with an airfoil cross-section, and vertical fin.
Sir George Cayley used models such as his bow-powered helicopter circa 1796, based on the model helicopter built by Frenchmen Launoy and Bienvenu in 1784, to begin the formal study of aeronautics. In 1809-1810 he published his paper On Aerial Navigation, outlining his aeronautical research.
A further development of the bow-powered helicopter was this bow-powered airplane from the early 19th century.
In 1848 John Stringfellow constructed a steam engine monoplane. This aircraft weighed 8 pounds and had a 10-foot wingspan. The model was flown in an unused lace factory.
One of the first rubber-band powered models was the Planophore, built by Alphonse Pénaud in 1871. The airplane was a pusher type, with the propeller located on the back of the airplane pushing the model forward.
In 1891, Japanese Aviation Pioneer Chuhachi Ninomiya  successfully launched a rubber band-powered, single wing, propeller-driven airplane—the Karasu, which means “crow” in Japanese.

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