Those magnificent men in their flying machines

You could be forgiven for thinking that this contraption is from the 1960s flick Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, a comedy set in 1910 at the dawn of aviation, and starring Robert Morley, James Fox and Eric Sykes. But the contraption was no laughing matter for W Paris Myers of London!

This is Mr Myers’ entry for a 1910 Department of Defence flying competition. The Commonwealth was offering money for the most suitable flying machine – okay we’re not talking $16 billion to build Joint Strike Fighters, but hey, 5000 pounds is 5000 pounds!

According to this letter (and unfortunately for Mr Myers and the other entrants), ‘as no flying machines fulfilled the conditions of the competition, no prize was awarded’.

Please explain? Well, one condition was that the machine must be capable of ‘poising’ or remaining over a given area for what would in the opinion of the Minister be sufficient time to enable observations to be taken.

Although the first piloted helicopter flight (lasting for a few seconds) had taken place a few years earlier in 1907, it wasn’t until 1936 that the first practical helicopter would be built by the Germans.

 

  • read caption below
    Mr Myers’ entry for a 1910 flying machine competition
  • read caption below
    No flying machine fulfilled the conditions of the competition, 18 October 1913
Copyright National Archives of Australia 2017