Steam aircraft
Steam aircraft are aircraft
An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

 that are propelled by steam engine
Steam engine
A steam engine is a heat engine that performs mechanical work using steam as its working fluid.Steam engines are external combustion engines, where the working fluid is separate from the combustion products. Non-combustion heat sources such as solar power, nuclear power or geothermal energy may be...

s. They were unusual devices because of the difficulty in producing a powerplant
PowerPlant is an object-oriented GUI toolkit, application framework and set of class libraries for Mac OS, created by Metrowerks. The framework was fairly popular at the height of the Classic Mac OS era, and was primarily used with CodeWarrior...

 with a high enough power-to-weight ratio
Power-to-weight ratio
Power-to-weight ratio is a calculation commonly applied to engines and mobile power sources to enable the comparison of one unit or design to another. Power-to-weight ratio is a measurement of actual performance of any engine or power sources...

 to be practical. They are distinct from airship
An airship or dirigible is a type of aerostat or "lighter-than-air aircraft" that can be steered and propelled through the air using rudders and propellers or other thrust mechanisms...

s that use steam as their lifting gas
Lifting gas
Because of the Archimedes' principle, a lifting gas is required for aerostats to create buoyancy. Its density is lower than that of air . Only certain lighter than air gases are suitable as lifting gases.- Hot Air :...

 which are known as thermal airship
Thermal airship
A thermal airship is an airship that generates its lift via the difference in density due to a temperature differential between the gas inside its envelope and the ambient air. Currently all thermal airships use hot air, as used in a hot air balloon, as their lifting gas...



  • 1842: The Aerial Steam Carriage
    Aerial Steam Carriage
    The Aerial Steam Carriage, also named Ariel, was a flying machine patented in 1842 that was supposed to carry passengers into the air. It was, in practice, incapable of flight since it had insufficient power from its heavy steam engine to fly. A more successful model was built in 1848 which was...

     of William Samuel Henson
    William Samuel Henson
    William Samuel Henson was a pre-Wright brothers aviation engineer and inventor.Henson was born on 3 May 1812 , in Nottingham, England. Henson was involved in lace-making in Chard, which increasingly was mechanized at that time, and he obtained a patent on improved lace-making machines in 1835...

     and John Stringfellow
    John Stringfellow
    John Stringfellow was born in Sheffield, England and is known for his work on the Aerial Steam Carriage with William Samuel Henson....

     was patented, but was never successful, although a steam-powered model was flown in 1848.
  • 1852: Henri Giffard
    Henri Giffard
    Henri Giffard was a French engineer. In 1852 he invented the steam injector and the powered airship.-Career:Baptiste Henri Jacques Giffard was born in Paris in 1825...

     flies a 3 horsepower (2 kW) steam-powered dirigible
    An airship or dirigible is a type of aerostat or "lighter-than-air aircraft" that can be steered and propelled through the air using rudders and propellers or other thrust mechanisms...

     over Paris; it was the first powered aircraft.
  • 1874: Félix du Temple
    Félix du Temple de la Croix
    Félix du Temple de la Croix was a French naval officer and an inventor, born into an ancient Normandy family...

     flies a steam powered aluminium Monoplane off a downhill run. While it did not achieve level flight, it was the first manned heavier-than-air powered flight.
  • 1894: Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim (inventor of the Maxim Gun
    Maxim gun
    The Maxim gun was the first self-powered machine gun, invented by the American-born British inventor Sir Hiram Maxim in 1884. It has been called "the weapon most associated with [British] imperial conquest".-Functionality:...

    ) built and tested a large steam powered aircraft. The machine generated sufficient lift and thrust to break free of the test track and fly but was never operated as a piloted aircraft.
  • 1899: Gustave Whitehead
    Gustave Whitehead
    Gustave Albin Whitehead, born Gustav Albin Weisskopf was an aviation pioneer who emigrated from Germany to the U.S., where he designed and built early flying machines and engines meant to power them....

     built and flew a steam powered airplane in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Stoker/passenger Louis Darvarich was injured when the plane crashed into an upper story of an apartment building. He later flew steam aircraft in Hartford, Connecticut, and was visited by one of the Wright brothers well before 1903. However, this flight has never been verified satisfactorily; there are no photographs, news stories, or other media from 1899 to confirm it. Likewise, the supposed visit of the Wright brothers to Whitehead is apocryphal; other than affidavits taken over thirty years after the fact, there is no evidence the visit ever happened. Mainstream aviation historians remain unconvinced of the Whitehead claims.
  • 1902: Louis Gagnon flew a steam helicopter in Rossland, British Columbia
    Rossland, British Columbia
    Rossland is a city in the West Kootenay region of British Columbia.Tucked high in the Monashee Mountains, Rossland is at an elevation of 1023 metres . Population today is approximately 3500; a number that fluctuates from season to season. The population is at its peak during the winter...

    , called the "Flying Steam Shovel". Control problems caused a crash.
  • 1920 The Bristol Tramp
    Bristol Tramp
    |-See also:-External links:*...

     would have been a steam powered aeroplane but the turbine was over powered and the construction of a reliable boiler and condenser circuit was problematic.
  • 1933: George D. Besler and William J. Besler's prototype steam biplane, based on a Travel Air 2000, flew several times at Oakland
    Oakland, California
    Oakland is a major West Coast port city on San Francisco Bay in the U.S. state of California. It is the eighth-largest city in the state with a 2010 population of 390,724...

     airport. It was powered by a two-cylinder, 150 hp reciprocating engine designed by the Doble Steam Motors Company and Besler weighing about 500 lbs. and was capable of STOL
    STOL is an acronym for short take-off and landing, a term used to describe aircraft with very short runway requirements.-Definitions:There is no one accepted definition of STOL and many different definitions have been used by different authorities and nations at various times and for a myriad of...

     operation due to the ease of reversing the thrust.
  • 1944: A steam-powered version of the Messerschmitt Me 264
    Messerschmitt Me 264
    |-See also:-References:NotesBibliography* Duffy, James P. Target: America. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Publishers, 2004. ISBN 0-275-96684-4....

    a was hypothesized but never constructed. This was meant to be powered by a steam turbine
    Steam turbine
    A steam turbine is a mechanical device that extracts thermal energy from pressurized steam, and converts it into rotary motion. Its modern manifestation was invented by Sir Charles Parsons in 1884....

     developing over 6000 hp while driving a 5.3 meter (17' 6") diameter propeller. The fuel would have been a mixture of powdered coal and petroleum
    Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

    . It seems that the steam turbines would have had an SFC of 190 gr/hp/hr. The main considered advantages to this powerplant were consistent power at all altitudes and low maintenance.
  • 1960s: Conceptual drawings were made for Don Johnson of Thermodynamic Systems Inc. Newport Beach, CA of an engine. It was to be in installed in a Hughes 300 helicopter. The steam engine was a compact cylindrical double-acting uniflow [similar in layout to the Dyna-Cam Aero engine], but never prototyped by Controlled Steam Dynamics, Inc.

External links

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