This winged carriage designed by Monsieur Gerard in 1784 was more concept than reality. That is, he drew it (see below) but did not actually build it. Which is just as well, because there was no way this thing would ever fly. Gold star for you if you can figure out why (hint: the feathers probably wouldn’t help as much as he thought they would).
BUT… the design is notable for being among the first to propose using an artificial motor instead of human muscles to make the wings go up and down. Flapping wings were still a bad idea, but at least he was clever enough to suggest using something other than manpower to make it go.
Gerard’s description does not explicitly state what type of engine he had in mind, but the drawing seems to indicate the machine would have been powered by a combination of two sources: escaping gases, like a rocket, and a gunpowder engine to make the wings flap.That’s right – a gunpowder engine. Which didn’t exist, so he would have had to invent it, but boy oh boy if he’d invented one, then look out birds!
Actually, the idea of using gunpowder as fuel is perhaps not as insane as it sounds, considering today’s aircraft use jet fuel which is far more explosive than gunpowder. Kinda makes me wonder why we don’t have jet fuel rifles, right?
LESSON: When you run up against the limits of human strength, look for an alternative power supply. Can I suggest gunpowder?