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Those Magnificent Flying Machines

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"It's a Falling Machine. I'm so impressed."
Agatha Clay, Girl Genius

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 thought 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 Steampunk 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 their 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; while magnificent flying machines can and do exist without them, Worlds in the Sky are very often host to such devices. Please don't try to take this trope too far into the realm of fantasy, though. 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 of this trope (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. Or bicycle pedals. Or simply the Rule of Cool.
  • It may have an inordinate number of wings. These may flap, and may be far too small to be what's really keeping it aloft.
  • It may also have lots of propellers, which may be corkscrew-shaped.
  • It will be a clear example of Bamboo Technology or, sometimes, Magitek.
  • 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.note 
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  • 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. Leonardo da Vinci deserves special mention for dreaming up many fanciful aircraft in the early 16th century (several examples below were inspired by his work). The trope likely stopped applying to Real Life sometime between World War I and World War II, as airplanes gradually evolved towards their modern form, and as large rigid airships passed their heyday and fell into disuse.

See also: Useful Notes on airships.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Hayao Miyazaki's entire filmography: scenic flying sequences are a signature element, and he grew up around old airplanes in the factory operated by his father and uncle.
    • Sherlock Hound has many examples, the biggest of which being Episode Five: 'The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle' where Moriarty uses a pink, Pterodactyl-shaped biplane as a distraction for a jewel heist and Episode Ten: 'The White Cliffs of Dover' concerning a rash of sabotages with the Royal Mail's air service to Europe and sees the return of the aforementioned Pterodactyl.
    • The Castle of Cagliostro adds a classic autogyro as a Chekhov's Gun.
    • Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind has fanciful gliders and balloons.
    • Castle in the Sky might as well be considered flying machine porn.
    • Kiki's Delivery Service has a pedal powered experimental plane and extensive broomstick flight scenes. There's also the H. P. 42 biplane airliner in the opening credits.
    • Porco Rosso is a love letter to early aviation, using some of the most fanciful designs from real aviation to ever actually work.
    • The steam-powered, wing-flapping aircraft of Howl's Moving Castle are beautiful examples, including both giant warplanes and small commuter craft. Eventually, the castle itself becomes an example.
    • Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro, and Spirited Away are exceptions, but tend to feature flying scenes anyway, via high-jumping, running on cliffs, dragon-riding, or treetop cat-bus rides.
    • The Wind Rises goes even further and is a honest-to-God (if a bit fictionalized) biography of a real life Japanese aircraft engineer Jiro Horikoshi, a one time chief designer of Mitsubishi Aircraft, of which the Miyazaki brothers' factory was a subcontractor.
  • In the 2003 anime version of Fullmetal Alchemist, this is Ed's reaction to seeing the WWI planes of our world.
  • The Daughter of Twenty Faces has a double-balloon airship that is definitely strange, Steampunk, and propeller-laden enough to count.
  • Most of the flying machines seen in the first episode of Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water.
  • In The Familiar of Zero, there are ships with wings. How they fly? Wizards did it. Literally.
  • Eneru's Ark Maxim in One Piece. It's a huge boat with wings and lots of propellers. The primary power source is Eneru himself. The backup suspension system, should Eneru be otherwise occupied, is seashells. Well, extinct Jet Dials, but still seashells. It's designed to take Eneru and four people of his choice to the moon. Which it does, minus the extra passengers. Oh, and it's made of gold. Like, solid gold.
  • Last Exile and its sequel feature an assortment of Diesel Punk aircraft in both "fighter plane" and "battleship" sizes with the overall technology level of the early 20th century. They fly using anti-gravity engines powered by a mysterious ore, which are a surviving relic of a more enlightened age - as in, they can be built and replicated but the exact science behind them is long forgotten.

    Comic Books 
  • The flying machine of Alexander LeRoi in the Batman Elseworld comic Master of the Future.
  • In De Cape et de Crocs, Bombastus builds a pedal-powered flying machine with flapping wings, all thanks to Bamboo Technology. Subverted in that halfway through the flight, he realizes it's not actually working - just slowing their fall.
  • An episode of Valérian, "World Without Stars", had pseudo-Renaissance blimps pulled by teams of horse-sized insects.
    • The airships we see at the end could also qualify, since they're basically modified old-school balloons.
  • Lady Mechanika has the Lewis Flyer, which appears to be a steam-powered vintage car with ornithopter wings and a helicopter rotor that somehow still manages to fly.
  • The vehicles in the air battle between the Devil Doctor and Professor Moriarty in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
  • Starscream's alt-mode in the Steampunk Transformers Elseworld Hearts of Steel is a batwinged fantasia of a biplane, based on designs by Gadgeteer Genius Tobias Muldoon.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW):
    • In "Convocation of the Creatures", a large number of these are visible in the beginning of the comic as the various delegates arrive at the Hall of Unity, including airships topped with fully rigged sails and with gondolas as big as their gas envelopes, hot-air balloons, and a helicopter-like contraption. Of course, some winged creatures such as pegasi, bat ponies and dragons simply fly in under their own power.
    • Issue 81 features the story of Wind Sock, an earth pony who dreamed of flying with the Wonderbolts. To that end, he experimented with heavier-than-air flight, repeatedly building, crashing, and rebuilding. He ultimately built a glider reminiscent of Leonardo Da Vinci's inventions, used it to rescue a trapped Wonderbolt, and was welcomed into their ranks. The comic ends with Rumble using a replica of his glider to fly in an air parade despite a sprained wing.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Once Upon a Forest a trio of young Woodland Creatures take their professor's plans for a flying machine called "The Flapper Wingamathing" with them on a quest to retrieve a plant that will help their comatose friend, and are able to build a scale replica of the contraption using Bamboo Technology to get the plant from a steep cliff face.
  • The chicken coop-turned airplane at the end of Chicken Run.
  • The airplane (later converted into a helicopter) in Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.
  • By Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, it has been fitted with a warp drive... but still powered by monkeys.
  • Lawrence III's 'hovercraft' in Pokémon 2000, which despite being composed of massive structural girders and massive expensively decorated rooms, is held aloft by slowly rotating propellers above and below the tips of the structural girders. Contrast this with its aversion in the helicopter Dr.Oak and co. arrive in, which would be pretty bog standard for Real Life.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The film Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, Or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 Hours 11 Minutes (the Trope Namer, as you might guess) 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.
    • The "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 making it themselves.
  • 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 onto the hero, with predictable results.
  • Master of the World featured the propeller-studded Albatross.
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was an old-time race car fitted with little wings and propellers. Though its flying power was All Just a Dream... or was it?
  • The film Young Sherlock Holmes featured one of these.
  • Hudson Hawk. A Leonardo da Vinci glider comes in handy for the title character and Anna Baragli.
  • Around the World in 80 Days (2004): Fogg and co. build one of these out of pieces of their ship in order to finish their journey on time.
  • The Dark Knight Rises: The Bat looks for all the world like the hollowed Tumbler body, and still it can fly.
  • The Fabulous World of Jules Verne [original title Vynález zkázy] (1958) is full of these — and almost every other steampunk device or vehicle you could imagine.
  • Gregor's steampunk balloon-ship in Waterworld.
  • The 1989 sci-fi movie Slipstream takes place in an After the End future where most travel is by flying the titular slipstream (a ground-level jetstream). The protagonist dreams of founding a balloon factory, and at the end we're treated to a montage of colourful and strangely-shaped balloons, implying that he got his wish.
  • In Sky Bandits, Fritz constructs strange flying machines he calls 'specials' out of the remains of crashed planes and machinery he finds lying around. After most of their planes are bombed, Major Bannock's squadron press the 'specials' into service. Many of them look like they should not be able to fly at all.
  • The Mummy Returns has a strange example. The film itself takes place in 1922, but the eccentric Izzy, the pilot whom Rick hires to transport his group to Egypt, turns out to be piloting a large dirigible, claiming that "airplanes are a thing in the past" much to Rick's dismay.

  • The War in the Air by H. G. Wells, obviously.
  • The jet-propelled ornithopters of the Dune universe probably count, though they are an unusually high-tech example.
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko's Alternate History duology Seekers of the Sky, the deficit of iron in the world has drastically slowed down the scientific progress. As such, flying is still in its infancy. All flying machines are gliders made up mostly of wood and sheets. They do have engines, which can be started with either a chemical or an electrical lighter. Also, gliders can be outfitted with one-time booster rockets that drop off after their fuel is expended. Most of the time, gliders are only used to deliver messages, as flying them is extremely dangerous, preventing them from taking on passengers. All pilots must memorize wind maps, as no instruments are present in gliders. Chinese gliders are the most advanced, and their boosters allow them to cross entire continents in one go. Due to their fragile nature, Old School Dogfighting is impossible. In wartime, gliders may be used to drop bombs.
  • Robur the Conqueror, by Jules Verne, on which the film Master of the World was largely based (and not so much on the same author's book Master of the World), featuring the "aeronef" Albatross. It was powered by electricity and used lots of airscrews for both lift and propulsion, and was made of highly-compressed paper.
  • The original Tom Swift series of books had Tom designing a succession of improbable, and sometimes magnificent, flying machines, starting with his combination dirigible/winged airship, Red Cloud.
  • Ornithopters are also used by the Empire of Granbretan in Michael Moorcock's Dorian Hawkmoon novels. They're small, lightly armed, and not always wholly reliable, but in a world where the next best way to fly is on the back of a giant flamingo they're still an important part of the Granbretan war machine.
  • Clockpunk ornithopters and helicopters (along with airships) used to dominate the skies in Shadows of the Apt, but they're rapidly being outcompeted by WWII-esque planes in more recent books.
  • Show up as illustrations in the Disney children's encyclopaedia on flying machines.
  • The Mortal Engines series features lots of airships of all imaginable shapes and sizes (from couch-sized airships perfect for indoor flight to massive Air Dreadnoughts, and lots of assorted tramp traders in-between), perfect for adventuring in a vast Steampunk and Dieselpunk world. In the early books, the secrets of heavier-than-air flight have been lost, but later in the series we see all sorts of armed ornithopters, autogyros, and rickety biplanes competing with zeppelins in the sky. Air travel is heavily romanticized in the setting — air traders ply the "Bird Roads," seeing the world and having lots of glamorous and dangerous adventures.
  • Wendy Darling's uncle in Peter and the Sword of Mercy has built an ornithopter that's in its early testing stages. By the second time we see it being tested, it's fully functional, even before Wendy dumps her supply of starstuff into the fuel tank to extend its range.
  • In Updraft, use of hang-glider-esque wings to fly around and between the towers of the city is routine, and Kirit is very keen to pass her tests and become an airborne trader like her mother. These wings are also used for combat, both against monsters and in duels (including Trial by Combat). There do not seem to be any larger air vehicles, however; or powered ones.
  • Rosie's helio-cheese-copter in Rosie Revere Engineer. Which is simply awesome.
  • Airman by Eoin Colfer features an Alternate History of the development of heavier-than-air aircraft in the late 19th Century. The protagonist, Conor Broekhart, uses a self-invented collapsible glider to get to and from the island prison slash diamond mine Little Saltee to pick up a cache of diamonds he stashed there while he was a prisoner. At the climax of the story he uses a self-invented first-of-its-kind heavier-than-air flying machine to reach the Castle on Great Saltee and save his parents and love-interest. Unfortunately, the flying machine is destroyed in the attempt.

    Live Action TV 


    Tabletop Games 
  • Space 1889: Played with. Liftwood ships do not have wings, balloons or more than one propeller. They look and to a large extent function like ships. (Though the novel “A Prince of Mars” by Frank Chadwick describes the liftwood ships as less similar to regular ships than the role-playing game.) Even the early attempts at flight that historically looked like this are unlikely to occur in Space 1889 since liftwood has allowed practical flying ships. In the core book, however, there is a list of inventions that the player characters can make including flying machines. Many of them have illustrations that looks a lot like this.
  • Deadlands, set in the 19th century with mad science, naturally uses this aesthetic for all of its aircraft.
  • In Flying Circus, many of the flyable planes abide by the laws of physics. Yet, the setting's fantastical and magical nature means that much of the aircraft in Flying Circus is unrealistically magnificent. Most notably are the Leviathan machines, magical autonomous war machines in the vein of the title-granting machines of Howl's Moving Castle or Castle in the Sky.
  • Games Workshop:
    • Warhammer 40,000: The metallic Deffkopta model. The plastic models, however, are more subdued, just looking like a bike modded into a helicopter. This works because it is made by Orks; they're idiots with telekinetic powers, so if they believe something will work, it does.
    • In Warhammer Fantasy, the Dwarfs have steam-powered "Gyrocopters", while the Dogs of War have the Birdmen of Catrazza, canvas-winged humans using da Vinci-esque pedal-powered flight suits. The Birdmen's regimental motto is outright "Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines".
    • Warhammer: Age of Sigmar goes big with these, adding an entire faction of dwarves riding these and living in giant, flying cities. Even the most basic of armies is mostly composed of heavily-armed airships.
  • GURPS: Whenever the generic line tackles more or less Steampunk themes, it naturally tends to involve the odd eccentric flying contraption. For example:
    • In the steampunk Roman Empire that dominates the Roma Aeterna timeline in GURPS Alternate Earths, the only native heavier-than-air flyer is the jactavolans, an incredibly dangerous melding of Roman glider and Chinese rocket technology used for scouting and courier purposes. In game terms, you have to roll Piloting checks on takeoff (to see if the rockets explode) and landing (to see if you crash). All jactavolans pilots are state-owned slaves who receive both their freedom and Roman citizenship if they survive a five-year term of service.
    • The original GURPS Steampunk supplement featured a few instances, statted out for the Third Edition of the game. They were re-statted for the Fourth Edition in GURPS Vehicles: Steampunk Conveyances. The assumption is that such things will often be appropriate features for steampunk settings.
    • GURPS Vehicles: Transports of Fantasy also has game details for a few flying machines that demonstrate the trope, not least the Gnomish Aircar and the Dwarven Steam Airship.
  • The VSF miniatures game Aeronef by Wessex Games is set in an alternate universe where powered dirigible airships, nicknamed "'digs", are invented in 1852, and a powered anti-gravity system is developed in 1884, resulting in the construction of the titular Aeronefs, often shortened to "'nefs". Later developments include the discovery of negative-gravity particles that are passively generated from "R-Matter", a substance found in meteorites, usually in rainforests or polar regions. 'Nefs and 'Digs come in a variety of types, mostly military, ranging from small Patrol 'Nef to Battleships, as well as Carriers and specialist bombers. The style of miniatures is heavily inspired by the pre-dreadnought era from the mid-1870s to around the early 1910s, combining ship-like designs with aerial features such as control surfaces and more "conventional" gas-bag dirigible airships, albeit with a bit More Dakka.
  • Rocket Age: The H'Slit tribes of Venus make sail-ships, gliders and sail-planes out of wood, bone and incredibly carved stone fittings. The largest are capable of up to a dozen Venusians. It is likely these contraptions only fly due to the immense heat rising from Venus's depths.
  • World Tree (RPG): By necessity, travel between branches of The World Tree involves crossing enormous gulfs of empty air for anyone who doesn't fancy walking the long way around to the trunk and back up the other branch, and skyborne vessels are consequently common and, as they're all explicitly magical in nature, very elaborate and strange. Airborne ships, chariots pulled by birds and giant kites are among the more common of these contraptions.

    Video Games 
  • 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 propeller on the top, belches smoke, and seems to barely stay airborne. If you idle in air with it, its engine will occasionally turn off for a second or so, causing it to fall a few feet before it turns back on. As the story progressed, so did technology, to the point that both the Alliance and Horde have small fleets of airships, while the Gnomes and Goblins who lead the way are moving on to rocketry and airplanes.
    • Flying Machines originated in Warcraft III, with two distinct variations: one has a fairly typical-looking helicopter rotor with a pair of propellers for forward thrust. The other has a pair of propeller-turbine contraptions that can rotate to point forward or downward, a bit like an Osprey VTOL aircraft. Both are made with the finest steampunk materials, of course.
  • The Vinci faction from Rise of Legends are all steampunk-ish, and so are their flying machines.
    • Specifically, the flying machines come from the Pirata city-state, and some feature equipment like grappling hooks clearly meant for boarding.
  • One of Leonardo da Vinci's flying machines appeared in Assassin's Creed II, and it was propelled by giant pyres burning all over the city.
    • Modified into a dive-bomber variant in Brotherhood. The firebombs actually set fire to the ground, which means you can finally provide your own means of lift.
  • The flyers in Jade Empire. Rocket-propelled Magitek-powered cloth-winged constructions designed and built by a mad god named Kang. They really ought to shred themselves rather than actually flying.
  • Shovel Knight's Propeller Knight commands an airship that is kept aloft by two gigantic propellers and propels itself through the sky by means of giant oars.
    • There's another, smaller airship docked above one of villages which, from the outside, appears to be a blimp, but you can climb up inside what should be the part where the lighter-than-air gas is contained and find a blacksmith's forge in there, calling into question what exactly is keeping the ship in the air, since no mention is made of it being magical.
  • Those Babylon Rogues of Sonic the Hedgehog certainly have a nice airship.
    • The Egg Albatross in Sonic Heroes was designed in this general style, resembling a dirigible with a propeller on the back of its envelope, another on its front, and oversize wings attached to its gondola with jet turbines at their tips. Of course, this being Dr. Eggman's technology, it's much more advanced than it appears and likely has its Steampunk look for solely aesthetic reasons.
  • Spore allows you to build your own not only as airships, but also as spaceships! That's right, you can really let your Steampunk ideas go loose in this.
  • Beedle's shop in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. A square wooden helicopter in a world that otherwise doesn't have powered flight. It's powered by pedalling and has some sort of primitive computer.
  • Several Final Fantasy games (most notably Final Fantasy VI and Final Fantasy IX) take place in worlds where the local civilization is just beginning to conquer skies. So the local Global Airship is usually built in this aesthetic.
    • Final Fantasy XII, in particular, features a world where commercial air travel is commonplace; it's definitely a luxury, but not so much of one that regular tourists and pilgrims can't afford it. Massive military fleets with giant cruisers and one-pilot fighters are also standard. And yet, having your personal airship is still a great symbol of freedom, accomplishment, and adventure, and Sky Pirates are idolized as rogue heroes and even role models for achieving this freedom, rather than regarded as dangerous criminals.
  • Corki, the Daring Bombadier from League of Legends flies around the battlefield in a heavily-armed Magitek gyrocopter.
  • The Barnstormer from Total Annihilation: Kingdoms, which resembles a three-way cross between the Wright Flyer, a helicopter, and a bat.
  • Guns of Icarus and its MMO sequel, Guns of Icarus Online, has you participating in combat between different kinds of fanciful airships in a Steampunk setting.
  • Obsidian has its own moth-like Ornithopter. But don't even question how it flies in this case, 80% of the game is inside dream worlds; It's powered by a Zoetrope!
  • Lighthouse: The Dark Being features two ornithopters in the parallel world. One of them is shaped like a bat, and it can be remotely summoned when playing an electronic pan pipe at its highest frequency.
  • Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons has a scene where the brothers need to ride a hang-glider that can be controlled by moving around and shifting weight to tilt the machine.
  • Bioshock Infinite, the floating city of Columbia powered by HARD, if somewhat questionable, science, and with a delightful early 1900 style, it is truly a marvelous, magnificent flying city.
  • Discworld Noir has Leonard of Quirm's Flapping-Wing-Flying-Device (pedal-powered ornithopter). A model briefly appears in Men at Arms, but in the game he's built a full-size version. Which Lewton flies in the final battle with Nylonathotep.
  • In Gigantic each team of heroes arrive on the battlefield aboard a winged airship and re-spawn there if they die in combat.
  • Because the game doesn't limit on what shape you can make your airships in Airships: Conquer the Skies, it usually results in this trope. Usually the basic design of airship with bare bone essentials are big wooden boxes, lifted to the sky only by the power of suspendium.
  • The Prop Cycle is a flying bicycle that the player controls using a real bike in the arcade cabinet.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Code:Realize, Impey Barbicane successfully builds a steam-powered ornithopter. It looks like a mechanical mosquito with too many wings and, despite the fact that it seems like there should be no possible way it would ever get off the ground, manages to fly fast and high when needed and can also hover in place.

    Web Animation 

  • A Beginner's Guide to the End of the Universe: The Commonwealth's air fleet consists of hot air balloons and armed zeppelins, while the Followers of the Icosahedron use a mix of these, war planes — some resembling jet liners with guns and some bricks with wings and propellers — and flying monsters. The Everyman later upgrades one of the Commonwealth's zeppelins by fusing it with a muscle car, which results in the airship gaining a large external engine on its envelope and becoming able to zip around at very high speeds.
  • Project 0, because they know that Owen fell from the sky the kids try to build one of these thinking it's the best way to get him home. They have blueprints for a model helicopter, but the machine is a mix between a helicopter and a hovercraft. Considering Owen is a Reality Warper it's probably an easy mistake to make for a group of kids.
  • Girl Genius:

    Web Original 
  • The Clockwork Raven is all about this. In addition to the title machine, a canvas-winged ornithopter that mostly works as a glider, the characters like to watch flying machines on an island far below their Floating Continent home. They see examples of almost every one of this trope's rules.

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama, despite being set in the 31st century, occasionally 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).
    • Leonardo's spaceship in "The Duh-Vinci Code" is probably an example, though, and there are more on the planet Vinci.
  • The Simpsons:
    Lisa: I just love these new planes!
    Hugh: Yes, it's a good thing they re-evaluated those wacky old designs!
    • Also parodied via a short sight-gag in another episode. The Da Vinci Airport note  in Italy seems to be host to a lot of flying machines designed by the man it is named after.
  • The flying machines built by Gadget in Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers.
  • Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines.
  • From Wacky Races, you had the Crimson Haybaler.
  • 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.
  • Used at least once (probably more, due to the Steampunk setting) in The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "Griffon the Brush-Off", Pinkie Pie tries at one point to keep up with Rainbow Dash and Gilda in a pedal-powered helicopter decorated with candy-cane stripes which Dash accurately describes as a "crazy contraption".
    • Tank the tortoise gets outfitted with a Magitek propeller in "May The Best Pet Win!", and he can be seen flying with it in a number of other episodes.
    • In "Sweet and Elite", Rarity christens an airship, which is made up of a conventional-looking boat suspended from a fish-shaped balloon (and appears to be driven by fish-like fins in place of a propeller).
    • In "Apple Family Reunion", three members of the extended Apple family arrive in an airship with a gondola that looks like it was made from a rowboat and a propeller.
    • In "Testing Testing 1, 2, 3", Twilight narrowly avoids hitting a panicked Cherry Berry flying another pedal-powered helicopter, though that one has a canopy which more or less resembles that of a Real Life helicopter.
  • The St. George from Dragon Hunters.
  • The Disney Wartime Cartoon Victory Through Air Power starts off with a humorous review of the progress of the airplane from the machines of the early days of aviation to the deadly warplanes of World War II.
  • The 1972 Scooby-Doo episode "The Ghost Of The Red Baron" (crossover with The Three Stooges) had bi-planes all over the place, one of which, airborne, had Velma in the cockpit—and she doesn't know how to operate it.
  • In Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School, the cadets at Calloway Military Academy have a pedal-powered helicopter.
  • Albert the Fifth Musketeer sometimes made use of a human-powered ornithopter. In the contraption's debut episode, it doesn't allow a Crew of One (or at least, not when the pilot is too short to reach the pedals), so he has to ask the Queen to help him pilot it to rescue the rest of his team.
  • The various steampunk-ish aircraft seen in Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra are generally pretty plausible, but Asami's airship is as magnificent as it is impossible. It looks like the offspring of a blimp and a skyscraper, being mostly made of glass and metal and featuring an excessively huge and lavishly-decorated bridge. Eight comparatively small propellers attached to the back half of the ship (via huge and ornate metal frames) supposedly keep the monster airborne.
  • On Dinosaur Train, "Dinosaur Train: Zeppelin Adventure" is a two-part special featuring the latest innovation from Dinosaur Train Industries: a zeppelin. It doesn't seem to travel through time, but it can the characters places that the train and the submarine can't. It comes complete with its own catchy theme tune.

    Other / Real Life 
  • Honourable mention must go to the Wright brothers, who created the first successful heavier-than-air flying machine. It stayed airborne for all of twelve seconds... but look at what it started!
    • While their twelve-second flight is the most famous, they actually made four flights that day, with the longest lasting a full 59 seconds.
    • Though the Wright Brothers are generally accepted as the inventors of heavier-than-air flight, the title has historically been contested by Samuel Pierpont Langley, Alberto Santos-Dumont, Gustave Whitehead, and others. Please see this trope's Analysis page for more.
    • One thing that indisputably puts the Wright brothers in a place in history is that they were eventually able to refine their concept into the world's first practical heavier-than-air-craft. The Wright Flyer III achieved nearly forty minutes of flight on its first test, enough for it to be indisputably useful in a reconnaissance role.
  • Leonardo da Vinci dreamed up a whole range of Magnificent Flying Machines, including human-powered ornithopters and corkscrew helicopters.
  • Red Bull Flügtag showcases some hilarious, inefficient, ineffective but ultimately awesome "flying" machines.
  • This clip presents black-and-white stock footage that includes several silly airplanes and helicopters failing (two examples at the beginning, then more about halfway through).
  • A working, human-powered ornithopter was built by University of Toronto post-graduate students and flown successfully in August 2010 (though earlier flights can contest the "world's first" claim in the article, this is likely the most successful, and elaborate, design used so far). Interestingly, the design was created using Leonardo da Vinci's sketches as an early starting point, though the final product looks nothing like his work (but no less impressive in flight for that).
  • An annual festival in Japannote  brings together man-powered contraptions to essentially leap off a cliff together in their pursuit of flight. Success is measured in distance and seconds, but isn't the sole criteria; points are given for design originality and sheer ballsy-ness.
  • A series of 3-dimensional models in the Chinook Mall (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) are this. They're suspended from a track which they periodically move around. Only one is an actual airplane.
  • The ideas of Francesco Lana de Terzi, an Italian Jesuitic priest of the XVII century deserve mention here. He envisioned what basically was a flying boat, where lift would be given by copper spheres with no air insidenote .
  • As mentioned above, various aircraft designs of World War I embodied this aesthetic, partially because at the time the great powers of the world needed absolutely anything that could vaguely fly that they could get their hands on in order to wrest a potential advantage from the skies, floating alongside observation balloons and Zeppelins. Among the more fanciful designs were the Entrich Taube, the very first bomber in the world whose wings physically bended and twisted in order to steer, the British "pusher" fighters such as F.E.2 and Airco DH 2, the BE9 who attempted to circumvent the issue of early fighters potentially shooting through their propeller by placing the gunner in front of it in a wooden box (this was prior to the invention of the synchronization gear), and the Fokker A.I, a reconnaissance monoplane whose wings were controlled by a system of external cables mounted on a mast-like structure.
  • Played straight in German and Finnish languages, where the word for "aeroplane" - Flugzeug and lentokone - mean directly translated as "flight machine".

Alternative Title(s): Flying Machine, Magnificent Flying Machines