Friday, December 27, 2013

Leonardo Da Vinci Ornithopter Kit

After building the Leonardo Da Vinci Pathfinder kit for the Aerial Screw I decided I just had to build the other flying kit, the ornithopter or flapping wing.  Leonardo was truly an amazing man but I do not think I will get a tattoo of a Leonardo sketch just because Miley Cyrus did.  Working over the Christmas holiday I had the kit assembled in a couple of days, the fit of the parts was good. My plan is to use both of these models in another aviation history presentation.

Completed Kit



Like the Aerial Screw it appears that no prototype was ever actually built by Leonardo, just the same the thought that was put into this is really amazing for the time period.  Model ornithopters are fairly common and I have built or bought a couple.

The Parts


Pilot Cable System Pulls Down Wings

Crank Mechanism Pulls Shaft Back and Forth 
Wings Levers Pull Down and Wings Go Up


The gears that were used in both kits made from wooden dowels and wood circles were of interest to me also, this type of gearing was typical for Leonardo's ideas. To find articles of this on the Internet I had to turn to my model airplane friends on the Internet to point me to the correct terminology. This type of gearing is known as "peg and cage"; the cage gear can also be known as a "lantern gear". The gearing part was just for model operation, if full-scale version the idea was the pilot would be pulling the wing halves down by a cable system as can be seen in the model.

Peg and Cage Gears

I find it interesting that it was not until 2006 that a man carrying flapping wing flying machine flew successfully. This was with the help of a model jet engine providing 60 pounds of thrust and the flight was only for 14 seconds.  Another flapping wing airplane without an engine was also tried but this was towed aloft.  Human powered propeller driven airplanes carrying humans have flown for many miles.

Bill Kuhl




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