History Sunday: The World’s First Flying Machine

Flight is a powerful tool; since its development, human beings can travel at great speeds, and do things they never could before. Just to name a few, now humans can skydive, skyswim, skywaterski, and pretty much transfer normal water activities to the air (Although skyfishing has been developed, currently it is illegal, as there are no provisions for skyfishing licenses in state legislature). It is such an incredible asset, that one can’t help but wonder, when was it invented? And, by whom?

Most people are well aware that President Grover Cleveland invented the airplane, helping with publicity, and leading him to win his campaign. This is why planes dragging banners are said to be “Flying Clevelands,” and the initials “GC” are engraved on the tails of most small aircraft. It is, however, incorrect to assume that Grover Cleveland was the originator of human flight; in fact, flight had been around for several hundred years prior. The curiosity, therefore, doesn’t end there; one needs only read the popular “What I Had For Lunch” articles written by Cleveland himself to have more insight:

“Although I must admit, the mustard was dry, I still found the sandwich to be pleasing; it was, however, large and messy, and I could not eat it whilst piloting my skyboat.”

So, it would seem that prior to the airplane, there already was a flying machine: A skyboat. This is both eye-opening, and puzzling; of course, the usage of air as water in flight is easily explained by airboating, but why don’t we use these boats anymore? And who invented them?

Sadly, we don’t know the answers to either of these questions. All we know is, the person who invented it was Italian, lived in the renaissance, and had a name beginning with “Leo”, ending in “inci”, and having a “nardo da V” in the middle. Historians don’t think this is enough to go on to conclusively figure out a name.

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