Made by the Scuola di Costruzioni ed Esperienze Aeronautiche in Guidonia and donated to the Leonardo Museum in 1938, this model reproduces a flying machine with beating wings conceived by Leonardo in the late 1480s. It is a part of his first phase of reflections on flight, characterized by projects involving the use of human power alone to operate devices capable of reproducing the beating of wings.
This machine’s pilot is positioned and secured with a strap on the rectangular platform, to which the complex mechanisms guiding the wing movement are connected. By thrusting with his feet into the stirrups, he actuates a system of cords and pulleys, causing the wings to go up and down. The same movement automatically causes the flexing, along with a small rotation, of the wings themselves, so that the wings’ surface is presented on-edge during the rise, in order more easily to cut through the air, then becoming flat during the descent, in order better to compress it.To facilitate the extension of the wings, springs are applied at the junctures of the sections, causing them to return automatically to the starting position.