Created By: girlyboy on July 21, 2010 Last Edited By: Labrynian_Rebel on July 22, 2010
Troped

Those Magnificent Flying Machines

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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).

Or cool, 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.

Actual 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.

Examples:

Community Feedback Replies: 31
  • May 3, 2010
    trinu
  • May 3, 2010
    girlyboy
  • May 4, 2010
    Nomic
    In World Of Warcraft engineers can craft a Flying Machine (actually called that) that fits this trope perfectly. It looks like an old plane with tiny wings and a helicopter-like propellar on the top, belches smokes and seems to barely stay airborne (if you idle in air with it, it's engine will occasionally turn off for a second or so, causing ti to fall a few feet before it turns back on).
  • May 4, 2010
    Arivne
    Literature
    • The jet-propelled ornithopters of the Dune universe probably count.
  • May 4, 2010
    foxley
    A staple of steampunk Sky Pirates.

    • The flying machine of Alexander LeRoi in the Batman Elseworld comic Master of the Future.
  • May 4, 2010
    girlyboy
  • May 4, 2010
    Jonathan SCE
    The Daughter Of Twenty Faces has a double-balloon airship that might or might not count.
  • May 4, 2010
    girlyboy
    @Jonathan: I haven't seen the anime, but judging from the opening video on You Tube, I'd say it's definitely strange, Steam Punk, and propeller-laden enough to count. :P
  • May 4, 2010
    LeeM
    Those Magnificent Men...'s "History of Flight" sequence was apparently a compilation that somebody had put together back in the 1920s, saving the movie's producers the job of doing it themselves.
  • May 4, 2010
    TheKaiYin
    Castle In The Sky was filled with these. Also, who could forget the Wright brothers, who created the first machine to stay airborne. It was only a 6-second flight, but it still counts.
  • May 4, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    I like the current trope picture.
  • May 4, 2010
    callsignecho
    • Red Bull Flutag showcases some hilarious, inefficient, ineffective but ultimately awesome "flying" machines.
  • June 4, 2010
    shimaspawn
  • June 4, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    There was one in the film The Young Sherlock Holmes.
  • June 5, 2010
    CaoCao
  • June 5, 2010
    TheBigSock
    The Vinci faction from Rise Of Legends are all steampunkish, and so are their flying machines.
  • June 5, 2010
    Superior
  • June 5, 2010
    Lavalyte
    It will also have multiple wing surfaces.
  • June 5, 2010
    Polar Bear
    • Most of the flying machines seen in the first episode of Nadia The Secret Of Blue Water.
    • In De Cape Et De Crocs, Bombastus builds a pedal-powered flying machine with flapping wings, all that thanks to Bamboo Technology. Subverted in that half-way through the flight, he realizes it's not actually working - just slowing their fall.
  • June 5, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    The Flintstone Flyer in the first episode of The Flintstones, a pedal-operated whirlygig invented by Barney (despite the name). Later in the series, planes were just modern airliners with pterodactyls instead of jets, or else one giant pterodactyl with a cabin mounted on top.
  • June 5, 2010
    CaoCao
    An episode of Valerian, "World Without Stars", has pseudo-Renaissance blimps pulled by teams of horse-sized insects, does it count?
  • June 5, 2010
    Polar Bear
    @Cao Cao: I don't think they do. The airships we see at the end could qualify, though, since they're basically modified old school balloons?
  • June 5, 2010
    asterselene
    Castle In The Sky might as well be considered flying machine porn.
  • June 5, 2010
    HappyDuck
    Used at least once (probably more, due to the Steampunk setting) in The Marvelous Misadventures Of Flapjack.
  • June 6, 2010
    DorianMode
    Someone needs to find a link to that black-and-white stock footage of all those silly airplane and helicopters failing.
    • Okay, here we go. Two at the beginning, then more halfway through.
  • June 22, 2010
    EdnaWalker
    Bump?
  • June 28, 2010
    AlirozTheConfused
    Bump!
  • July 20, 2010
    girlyboy
    I think I'm gonna get back to this trope.

    Is it ready for launch yet? All feedback on the trope description -- anything else that needs to be mentioned, anything that doesn't fit, etc. -- would be most appreciated.

    (I'll include all the examples when launching, rather than editing them in now, though).
  • July 20, 2010
    TBTabby
    A Monty Python sketch had an inventor wearing a flying machine that consisted of two small wings on his back, powered by a hand crank on his chest. The scene dissolves to the inventor flying through the air and crashing into a wall, then the camera rotated 45 degrees to show that he actually fell like a rock. The camera then pans to show several other inventors who met the same fate.
  • July 21, 2010
    bbofun
    Launch it- just be careful you don't fall off the cliff!
  • July 22, 2010
    Arivne
    If gliders count:

    Film
    • Hudson Hawk. The glider built by Leonardo da Vinci that the title character and Anna Baragli use to escape the castle at the end of the movie.
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