By E.C. Vivian
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Extra resources for A History of Aeronautics
The fact that he followed the bird outline as closely as he did attests his lack of scientific training for his task, while at the same time the success of the experiment was proof of his genius. The body of his artificial bird, boat-shaped, was 13 1/2 ft. in length, with a breadth of 4 ft. at the widest part. The material was cloth stretched over a wooden framework; in front was a small mast rigged after the manner of a ship's masts to which were attached poles and cords with which Le Bris intended to work the wings.
The matter of experiment along any lines in connection with aviation is primarily one of hard cash. Throughout the whole history of flight up to the outbreak of the European war development has been handicapped on the score of finance, and, since the arrival of the aeroplane, both ornithopter and helicopter schools have been handicapped by this consideration. Thus serious study of the efficiency of wings in imitation of those of the living bird has not been carried to a point that might win success for this method of propulsion.
The machine fell to the earth, breaking one of its wings, and it does not appear that de Villeneuve troubled to reconstruct it. This experiment remains as the greatest success yet achieved by any machine constructed on the ornithopter principle. It may be that, as forecasted by the prophet Wells, the flapping-wing machine will yet come to its own and compete with the aeroplane in efficiency. Against this, however, are the practical advantages of the rotary mechanism of the aeroplane propeller as compared with the movement of a bird's wing, which, according to Marey, moves in a figure of eight.
A History of Aeronautics by E.C. Vivian