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Vinathi Prasad

Mrs. Seader


May 3, 2011

Leonardo Da Vinci and His Flying Machines

Leonardo da Vinci was a remarkable man who lived during the 16th century. He was known

for his paintings, such as The Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, and he was known for being an

astronomer, sculptor, geologist, mathematician, botanist, animal behaviorist, engineer, architect,

musician, and inventor. We still use some of his inventions today, such as the scissors, machine

gun, and automobile car (which was powered by spring). However, his most known inventions

are in flight. They are the glider, helicopter, and parachute.

Da Vinci’s glider was the first machine that was capable of flight. He studied birds and their

wings to come up with a suitable model. It did not fly, but if it had, it would have led to a big

boom in the development of aircrafts, as well as make him richer than Michelangelo. The wing

was designed with resin cotton, and the frame was made with bamboo shoots.

Da Vinci’s invention of the helical airscrew, or helicopter, wasn’t original. The Chinese used

a similar principle of the spinning lift for centuries. He used his knowledge of bird anatomy to

make another flying machine for humans to travel in. His prototype was made of hollow reeds

and starched linen to make the wing stiff and light as possible. He hoped that it would create

enough force to make the spiral turn and the helicopter would spin through the air like a

corkscrew. It did not work because the shaft couldn’t produce enough power to have the turning


Sebastian Lenormand was credited with the first practical parachute in 1783, but da Vinci
came up with the idea many years earlier. Instead of using the rounded canopy, he used a

triangular one thinking that it would have enough air resistance to float. The parachute was to be

made of linen covering a wood frame. Da Vinci never built or tested this parachute, but in 2000,

Adrian Nichols tested this using Da Vinci’s blueprints and said that it worked as intended and

had a smoother ride than a normal parachute.

Leonardo da Vinci’s journal entries, blueprints, sketches, and widespread imagination

influenced many inventors’ successful inventions that changed our lives. The glider led to the

invention of the first airplanes by the Wright brothers. Da Vinci was truly an amazing man who

contributed greatly to the technology our generation takes for granted today.


1. Anderson, Maxine. Amazing Leonardo da Vinci inventions you can build yourself. Norwich,

Vt.: Nomad Press, 2006. Print.

2. "Leonardo Da Vinci Paintings, Inventions and his complete Biography!" Leonardo Da Vinci

Paintings, Inventions and his complete Biography. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2011.


3. "Leonardo da Vinci's Parachute Invention." The Inventions of Leonardo Da Vinci. InventHelp,

n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2011. <http://www.da-vinci-inventions.com/parachute.aspx>.