Once upon a time Flying
was not the relatively mundane commute that it is today, but an adventure into an unexplored realm, a victory over gravity that was long though to be impossible. Flying machines were not the shiny, high-technology Cool Planes
we regularly see in the sky nowadays, but fabulous contraptions cobbled together by Mad Scientists
, sporting lots of spinny bits, belching smoke and fire, risky and magnificent
This trope is for all Flying Machines that reflect this aesthetic, and this romantic way of looking at human flight
. It is most usually found in Steam Punk
and Raygun Gothic
works, but may also have a place in Fantasy
and even Historical Fiction
In more fantasy-oriented works, Sky Pirates
may make use of Those Magnificent Flying Machines
to plough the ocean of air
in their search for prey. Floating Continents
and a World in the Sky
may or may not be involved. But don't try to take this trope too
far into the realm of fantasy. Letting flight be entirely explained by magic
, for example, would not have the same feel or meaning for the story. A flying ship kept airborne by a wizard's spell would not count as an example (though a flying ship that uses magic to drive a hundred tiny propellers
very well might
Generally, a Magnificent Flying Machine will have one or several of the following features:
- It will be powered by steam.
- It may have an inordinate number of wings.
- It may also have lots of propellers.
- Which may be corkscrew-shaped.
- It will be a clear example of Bamboo Technology.
- It will have an open, fragile-looking frame, possibly with thin canvas wings and lots of machinery visible inside.
- Or its hull may be incredibly heavy-looking, totally un-aerodynamic, and studded with rivets.
- It will have lots of spinning cogs and gears and other shiny moving parts.
- Its designers probably Failed Engineering Forever.
- And yet, against all odds... it will still fly.
Large examples may be Cool Airships
-- though Cool Airships don't always
follow this aesthetic, and Magnificent Flying Machines don't have to be large (or lighter-than-air).
, necessarily. While usually these craft will be treated as impressive feats of engineering -- as the title implies -- in some settings a primitive-looking flying machine will be Played for Laughs
(perhaps as an aeronautical version of The Alleged Car
). Actual use of the term "Flying Machine
" usually suggests humour.
aircraft in the early days of aviation, as well as many early unsuccessful attempts to build flying machines, may well fit here. However, this trope likely stopped applying to Real Life
sometime during World War I
as airplanes gradually became more streamlined, less improbable-looking, and more mundane.
- The film Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, Or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 Hours 11 Minutes opens with a brief "history of flight," featuring plenty of improbable and amusing contraptions. The opening credits feature a flotilla of humorous animated examples. The racing airplanes in the movie itself are also examples, and, notably, are all fairly faithful reproductions of actual early aircraft.
- In The Great Race -- a Dueling Film with the above -- the evil Professor Fate uses a small pedal-powered airship to try and drop a bomb on the hero, with predictable results.
- Gil's bat-wing flyer in Girl Genius counts. As do the numerous Cool Airships found throughout the work.
- The air-ships in The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello appear to stay in the air solely through reaching a critical mass of Steam Punk.
- The steam-powered, wing-flapping aircraft of Howl's Moving Castle are beautiful examples, including both giant war-planes and small commuter craft.
- The flying machines built by Gadget in Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers.
- Futurama, despite being set in the year 3000, shows flying machines that fit this trope right alongside Flying Cars and Shiny-Looking Spaceships. Bender once referred to the protagonists' Cool Starship as "the Flying Machine", evoking this trope (though their ship is not itself an example).
- Master of the World featured the propeller-studded Albatross.
- Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines.
- Castle in the Sky is filled with crazy flying things.