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Top 10 Bungled Attempts at One-person Flight

        Science | Classic

5
Besnier the Locksmith (1678)
Somehow, Besnier the locksmith managed to fly short distances with his design.
Somehow, Besnier the locksmith managed to fly short distances with his design.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Much of the history of aviation involves a long line of people who are altogether u­nassociated with flying but for a brief stint. One such person was Besnier, a locksmith from Sablé, France, who decided to put locks aside for a moment and try his hand at a flying machine.

Besnier had a bit more sense than the eccentric Desforges, and he understood that he didn't quite have the right materials to build a flying machine that would let him take off from the ground. Instead, the locksmith designed an apparatus made of two wooden rods placed over the shoulders, on each of which was attached two wings. The rods, according to the illustration, were also tied to the pilot's feet, which helped to pull the wings down alternately and flap the folded wings. Besnier never attempted to flap violently from the ground; he tested his contraption out on short distances, jumping from chairs, tables, window sills and, eventually, the tops of garrets and over rooftops. Although he became fairly skilled at floating for short distances, attempts at long distance flights only ended up in failure.

For yet another Frenchman's bungled flight apparatus, read the next page.


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