from The Prehistory of Flight (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985)

This directory attempts to list all heavier-than-air flying machines, whether models or of man-carrying size, that are said to have been built and tested in Western Europe prior to the Montgolfiers. While I do not include machines that are known to have been totally imaginary, I have been fairly liberal in my sifting of the evidence. Thus the list includes items ranging from those about which there is no historical doubt whatever (e.g., the ornithopters of Pierre Blanchard) to others that may never in fact have existed (e.g., the zany structure conceived by d'Alcripe's drunken Norman labourer).

After the directory I have added a checklist of unadopted items, which I have so far been unable to confirm, and a further checklist of spurious flights, with brief comments on my reasons for rejection.

ca. 850 B.C. Troja Nova
(London, England)
King Bladud Wings attached to the arms Fell onto the temple of Apollo and was killed. Fabyan, The Chronicles (1516) f. viii. See also H.C. Levis, The British King Who Tried to Fly (London: 1919). Although Bladud is legendary, the story of his flight might have some factual basis.
4th century B.C. Greece Archytas of Tarentum (fl. c.400-350 B.C.). A wooden dove, worked by 'a current of air hidden and enclosed within it.' Model.
Aulus Gellius, Noctium atticarum libri xx, X.12, pp. 8-10. Sometimes interpreted as a kite. 'Dove' should perhaps be read 'small flying object.' Cf. modern 'big birds' = airliners.
ca. 60 A.D. Rome, Italy Actor at a feast given by Nero Feathered Arms 0/0 (fatal). Suetonius, VI.xii.2., Such spectacles appear to have been comparatively frequent.
ca. 875 Andalusia, Spain Abu'l-Kasim 'Abbas b. Firnas Feather-covered wings; body covered in feathers; no tail. 'A considerable distance,' alighting at his starting point. al-Makkari, The History of the Mohammedan Dynasties in Spain I, trans. de Gayangos (London: 1840) p. 148.
1002-3 or 1009-10 Nisabur, Arabia al-Djawhari Wings made of wood. 0/0. Threw himself from the top of a mosque and fell to the ground, where he was killed. A. Zéki Pacha, 'L'aviation chez lez Arabes,' Bulletin de l'Institut égyptian 5th s., V (1991) pp. 92-101. See also 'al-Djawhari,' by L. Kopf, in The Encyclopaedia of Islam, new edition (Leiden and London 1960, etc.).
ca. 1010 Malmesbury, England Eilmer, a monk (ca. 980-1066) Wings attached to the hands and feet; no tail. More than a stadium (= 606.75 ft) from the top of a tower; broke his legs. William of Malmesbury, De gestis regum anglorum I, ed. Stubbs (London: 1887) pp. 276-7.
1162 Constantinople A Turk Saillike wings made of 'a long and large white garment, gathered into many pleats and foldings.' He had planned to fly a furlong from a high tower but fell immediately to the base. Nicetas Choniates, Historia (Basileae: 1557) p.60. Frequently quoted in Renaissance and later.
ca. 1232 Bologna, Italy Buoncompagno, a Florentine Wings (to be flapped by the arms?). Flight abandoned at the last moment. Salimbene de Adam, Cronica (13th century) I, ed. Scalia (Bari: 1966) pp. 109-110.
ca. 1250 Oxford, England A friend of Roger Bacon Flying boat or carriage, with wings flapped by turning a crank handle. Presumably 0/0. Roger Bacon, De mirabili postestate artis et naturae (ca. 1260) (Lutetia Parisiorum: 1542) f. 42.
ca. 1420 Venice Giovanni da Fontana (ca. 1395-ca. 1455) Model dove powered by a rocket. Apparently about 100 ft. for each flight. Fontana, Metrologum de pisce cane et volucre (ca. 1420), Bologna, Biblioteca universitaria, MS 2705, ff. 95-104.
ca. 1474 Nuremburg, Germany Regiomontanus (1426-1476) Mechanical fly made of iron. A circuit around the dinner table. Petrus Ramus, Scholarum mathmaticarum libri unus et triginta (Basileae: 1569) II.65. Although the account as given must be inaccurate, Regiomontanus may have experimented with some kind of flying model. (His other flying invention, an 'eagle,' was a kite.)
February 1498/99 Perugia, Italy Giovanni Battista Danti (ca. 1477-1517). Feathered wings on a structure of iron bars. Trial flights over Lake Trasimeno, followed by a flight from a tower across the city square, crashing on to the roof of Saint Mary's Church. Cesare Alessi, Elogia civium perusinorum II (Romae: 1652) pp.204-7.
1505? Monte Ceceri, Italy Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) Complex ornithopter.
Leonardo, Sul volo degli ucceli (1505) f. 18. Whether Leonardo ever undertook a flight with one of his ornithopters is uncertain. He could perhaps have succeeded in making a short glide, but in 1550 Cardanus wrote that Leonardo had tried 'in vain.'
September 1507 Stirling Castle, Scotland John Damian, an Italian adventurer Wings made of hen feathers. A very short distance from the walls of the Castle.

John Lesley, The Historie of Scotland (1568-70) (Edinburgh: 1830) p. 76.

1536 Troyes, France Denis Bolori (d. 1536) Wings flapped by a spring mechanism. Two or three kilometers from the tower of the cathedral, ending in a fatal crash after a spring broke. Pierre Jean Grosley, Oeuvres inédites I (Paris: 1812) pp. 84-88.
20 June 1540, 5:00 pm Viseu, Portugal João Torto Two pairs of wings, of which the upper were larger than the lower, covered with calico, and joined by iron hoops lined with cloth. The flier was provided with a helmet representing an eagle's head with open beak. From the tower of the cathedral, intending to fly to the nearby Saint Matthew's fields. Crashed onto a roof when the helmet slipped over his eyes and died a few days later. Donna Maria de Gloriá, Probenda (17th century). Quoted in a number of later Portuguese books on aviation history, e.g. Albino Lapa, Aviaçao portuguesa (Lisboa: 1928) p. 12. According to Donna Maria, Torto had his attempt announced by the town crier on 1 June 1540.
ca. 1550 Tour de Nesles, Paris, France An Italian Wings, possibly of cloth. According to the poet Augié Gailliard, he dropped 'like a pig' close to the base of the tower and broke his neck. Pierre de Saint Romuald, Trésor cronolgique et historique III (Paris: 1669) p.583.
16th century Saint Mark's, Venice
J. Sturm, Linguae latinae resolvendae ratio (Argentiraci: 1581) p. 40. Probably imaginary.
16th century Nuremburg, Germany An old church cantor Wings flapped by a mechanism including wheels. "Flew here and there,' but broke his arms and legs when the mechanism failed. J. E. Burggravius, Achilles (Amsterodami: 1612) p. 52.
16th century Normandy, France A French laborer Wings made of the two halves of a winnowing basket, with a coal shovel for a tail. 0/0. Fell from the top of a pear tree into a drain and broke his shoulder. Philippe d'Alcripe, La nouvelle fabrique des excellens traits de vérité (16th century), ed. Gratet-Duplessis (Paris: 1853) pp. 178-9. Probably Fictional.
1557-8 San Yuste, Spain Giovanni Torriano (d. 1580 or 1581) Wooden sparrows (models). A circuit around the dining roomof Charles V's retreat near the monastery. F. Strada, De bello belgico (Romae: 1632) p. 8.
ca. 1589 Conway, Wales John Williams Long coat used as a sail or wings. Fell almost immediately on to a stone which emasculated him. John Hacket, Scrinia reserata (London: 1693) p. 8. Williams was about seven years old at the time.
ca. 1600 Lucca, Italy Paolo Guidotti (ca. 1150-1629) Wings made of whalebone and covered with feathers; springs were used to give them curvature. About 1/4 mile starting from 'a height.' Fell through a roof after his arms grew tired. Broke a thigh and was left in 'a sorry plight.' F. Baldinucci, Notizie de' professori del disegno IV (Firenze: 1700) pp. 248-50.
ca. 1600 Venice Giovanni Francesco Sagredo (ca. 1571-1620) Wings based on those of a falcon. Threw himself from a height and arrived 'many yards from his starting point.' Paris, Blbliotheque nationale, MS Latin 11195, f. 57.
ca. 1610 Calabria, Italy
Broke his legs on landing. Tommaso Campanella, De sensu resrum (Francofurti: 1620) p. 280: 'a certain Calabrian, a few years ago.'
ca. 1620 Schussenried, Germany Kaspar Mohr, a monk (1575-1625) Wings made from goosefeathers held together by whipcord. Practice flights. S.B. Wilhelm, 'Schweikart und Mohr, zei schwäbische Flieger aus alter Zeit,' Illustrierte aeronatuische teilungen 13 (1909) pp. 441-45.
ca. 1640 England Gascoyn Winged arms?
Robert Hooke 'An Account of Sieur Bernier's [sic] Way of Flying,' Philosophical Collections I.1 (1679) p. 15.
ca. 1640 Near Vauxhall, England? An English boy Winged chariot made from farming machinery. Said to have flown the length of a barn. The inventor, the Marquis or Worcester, said that he knew 'how to make a man fly; which I have tried with a little Boy of ten years old in a Barn, from one end to the other, on an Hay-mow.' Edward Somerset, Second Marquis of Worcester, A Century of ... Inventions (London: 1663) pp. 54-55 (invention p. 77). Although perhaps entirely apocryphal (Worcester was a gross exaggerator), some kind of experiment may have been made.
1647-8 Krakow, Poland Tito Livio Burattini (1617- ca. 1680) Flying dragon: a complex ornithopter of which at least three working models were made. Successful indoor flights reported. Paris, Bibliotheque nationale, MS Lation 11195, ff. 50-61. The projected man-carrying machine appears never to have been built.
ca. 1650 Augsburg, Germany Salomon Idler, of Cannstatt (ca. 1610- ca. 1670), a cobbler Wings made of iron and feathers. Dissuaded from flying from a tower, he flew instead from a low roof on to a bridge covered with mattresses. He broke the bridge, killing some hens nesting under it. Later he took his wings to Oberhausen and chopped them to pieces. J.J. Becher, Närrische Weiszheit und weise Narrheit (Franckfurt: 1682) pp. 164-68; C.J. Wagenseil, Cersuch einer Geschichte der Stadt Augsburg IV.2 (Augsburg: 1822) pp. 485-87.
ca. 1650 Scutari (Üsküdar), Turkey Hezârfen Ahmed Çelebi Wings, like those of an eagle, attached to the arms. Began with training flights, 'turning round and round in the air,'; then starting from Galata Tower, flew several kilmeters, landing in Dogoncilar Square, the marketplace of Scutari. Evliyâ Çelebi (1611-83), Seyahatnâme I (Istanbul: 1896) p. 670. See also Türk Ansiklopedesi XIX (Ankara: 1971) p. 207.
17th century London, England A Frenchman Bat-shaped wings of leather, with wooden ribs and iron hinges; no tail. Managed a safe descent from the roof of St. Paul's, London. Broke his neck at a second attempt when one of the hinges failed. Georg Heinrich Büchner, Merkwürdige Beyträge zu dem Weltlauf der Gelehrten III (Langensalza: 1766) pp. 542-66. Account may be fictional.
17th century The Netherlands Adriaen Baartjens Improved wings like those of the Frenchmen above, but with the addition of eagle feathers and a tail like that of an eagle. A successful trial flight from the highest tower in Rotterdam was followed, about a year later, by a trial flight from a tower in The Hague, with a safety line attached. A further free flight ended in a crash that broke his arm.  
1658-59 Oxford, England Robert Hooke (1635-1703) Model bird, powered by 'springs and wings.' Hooke says it 'rais'd and sustain'd it self in the Air.' Richard Waller, 'The Life of Dr. Robert Hooke,' prefaced to The Posthumous Works of Robert Hooke (London: 1705) p. iii-iv.
ca. 1660 Nuremburg, Germany Johann Hautsch (1595-1670), a skilled mechanic and coach builder Flying carriage?
Becher, Närrische Weinszheit p. 164-68. Little is known of the work, which appears to have been carried out late in Hautsch's life.
15 January 1672/3 at 7:00 pm Regensburg, Germany Charles Bernouin, a surgeon of Grenoble Wings, described as a 'well-tensioned sail.' The flight was assisted by rockets. Said to have flown from a high tower. A variant account in Le journal se sçavans (12 December 1678) (ed. of Amsterdam: 1679, p. 455) says that he broke his neck flying at Frankfurt. Le mercure hollandois (Amsterdam: 1678) pp.98-99. Bernouin (spelled 'Bernovin' in the Mercure) had spent eight years in Germany. He was reputed to be good at flying.
1678 Sablé, France Besnier, a locksmith Hinged wings made of taffeta stretched over frames; flapped alternately using both arms and legs. Did not claim to be able to rise from the earth, but starting from a height, to be able to sustain himself sufficiently to cross a wide river. Le journal des sçavans (12 December 1678) (ed. of Amsterdam: 1679, pp.452-455).
11 February 1678/79 Venice
A flight from a high tower in Venice, on the occasion of the annual banquet of the Duke and Counsel. Erasmus Francisci, Der Wunder-reiche Uberzug unserer Nider-Welt (Nuremburg: 1680) p. 370.
2 April 1680 and again soon afterwards Moscow, Russia? A Polish peasant Wings made of mica. 0/0. Both attempts having failed, the peasant was obliged to refund subsidies he had received; he was also severely beaten. See Savorgnan di Brazza, La navigazione aerea (Milano: 1910) p. 15, who cites the Russian chronicler Zheliabuzhskii (b. 1638).
ca. 1710 Halle, Germany Johann Gabriel Illing, a locksmith Artificial eagle, with a wing span of 5 ells (approx. 12 ft.). The pilot was to have sat inside while the feather covered wings were operated by a perpetual motion machine. Probably never finished. Johann Gottfried Seidler, Der fliegende Wandersmann oder philosophische Untersuchungen der Fliegekunst (Halle: 1710). Possible fiction elaborated from some factual basis.
ca. 1712 Saint Germain, France Charles Allard (ca. 1650-after 1711) Wings attached to arms. An attempt to fly from the Terrasse de Saint Germain to the Bois du Vésinet. Traditionally said to have been gravely injured in the attempt and to have died from his injuries.
ca. 1730 Turin, Italy Abbé don Falco Possibly a lighter-than-air machine, like Lana's?
Johann Georg Keyssler, Neüste Reise I (Hannover: 1740) p. 252.
1742 Paris, France The soidisant Marquis de Bacqueville (ca. 1680-1760) Wings attached to the arms and legs. A short distance across the Seine, crashing into a boat. Pierre-Mathias Charbonnet, Eloge prononcé par La Folie devant les habitans des petites-maisons (Avignon: 1761).
1750 Wildburg (Württemberg), Germany Schweikart, a miller Two large wings of taffeta. 0/0. Stood on a high mountain before many observers and tried to fly over the town in the valley below; fell, smashed the wings, and hurt himself. Franz Lana und Philipp Lohmeier von fer Luftschiffkunst, trans. anon. (Tübingen: 1784).
October 1751 London, England Andrea Grimaldi Bird-shaped flying carriage of complex construction; wingspan 22 ft. 0/0. Probably never tested. The Whitehall Evening-Post (p. 3-5 October 1751) I. Grimaldi, posing as a widely travelled priest, appears to have been a charlatan.
ca. 1770 Etampes, France Canon Pierre Desforges (b. ca. 1723) Feathered wings. 0/0. The wings were fixed to a peasant, who refused to make the attempt. Annonces, affiches, nouvelles et avis divers de l'Orléanois 36, 39, 40 (4, 25 September and 2 October 1772) pp. 147-148, 161-62, 165-66.
1772 Etampes, France Desforges Wickerwork gondola with flapping wings of 19.5 ft. span, and with an overhead canopy of 8 ft X 6 ft. 0/0. Immediate fall from the top of the Tour Guinette (ca. 100 ft.). See Annonces and Lauren Gaspar Gérard, Essai sur l'art du vol aérien (Paris: 1784) pp. 40-45.
August 1781 Emmendingen, Germany Carl Friedrich Meerwin (1737-1810) Ornithopter of wood and fabric; wing area 111 ft2; triangular tail; weight 56 lb. Probably never tested. Carl Friedrich Meerwein, Die Kunst zu fliegen nach Art der Vögel (Frankfurt und Basel: 1784).
Autumn 1781 Saint Germain, France Jean Pierre Blanchard (1750-1809) A nacelle 4 ft. X 2 ft., with four wings, each 10 ft. long. 0/0. Journal de Paris for the period. See also Jules Duhem, Histoire des idČes aČronautiques avant Montgolfier (Paris: 1943) pp. 174-76.
End of Autumn 1781 Saint Germain, France Blanchard Vaisseau volant: a larger machine, similar to the first. Four oval wings, hinged along their central spars, like those of Besnier (see earlier). Never tried in public. See Journal de Parisand Duhem, Histoire des idées aéronautiques. There are also four contemporary illustrations that have often been reproduced.
End of 1782-1783 Saint Germain, France Blanchard A machine for producing vertical lift on the jellyfish jet propulsion principle (cf. Morris's fictional flying machine of 1751). Some lift demonstrated in trials. Duhem, Histoire des idées aéronautiques p.176. Blanchard continued to experiment with his heavier-than-air machines until the success of the hot-air balloon converted him to lighter-than-air craft. See Léon Coutil, Jean-Pierre Blanchard: physicien-aéronaute (Evreux: 1911).
1783 Paris, France?
Wings based on measurements of a large number of birds. Said to have glided down from a height of c. 500 yards before falling on to the top of an open well. The wing structure saved him from falling in. Journal politique de Bruxelles (= part II of Mercure de France) (18 October 1783) p.127.

A Checklist of Unadopted Items (Hart has provisionally excluded the following because he has thus far been unable to confirm the details in primary sources)

ca. 1700 Rozoy Abbey, France Canon Oger Among the several seventeenth century abbeys and priories called Rozoy, the one most likely to have been intended is either Rozoy-le-grand, at Oulchy-le-Château, or Rozoy-le-Bellevalle, near Château-Thierry, both in Aisne. A search of the documents relevant to the abbeys has failed to confirm the story. Charles H. Gibbs-Smith, Aviation (London: 1970) p. 12.
ca. 1700 Péronne, France A priest Owing to the destruction during the world wars of many mss relevant to the region, it may never be possible to document the story. Gibbs-Smith, Aviation p.12.
ca. 1765 Romania A peasant named Kostic Said to have built a rustic machine covered with bark and based on the idea of the kite. Kostic is credited with some successful hops, including one of about 100 m. [Anthony Nixon], A True Revelation of the Travels of M. Bush, a Gentleman (London: 1608).

A Checklist of Rejected Items

ca. 1265 Griffolino d'Arezzo Griffolino, an alchemist of Arezzo, is placed in Hell by Dante. He says that he jestingly claimed to be able to fly and that he offered to teach the art to Albero of Siena. When he failed to do so, Albero had him burned at the stake. It is doubtful whether there is any substance behind the story. Dante, Inferno XXIX. pp.109-20.
1607 William Bush Bush invented a ship that could travel through air, on land, and in water. Wheels were used on land, while travelling through the air meant no more than being hauled up ropes attached to a tower. [Anthony Nixon], A True Revelation of the Travels of M. Bush, a Gentleman (London: 1608).
ca. 1650 Saint Joseph of Copertino
Said to have experienced levitation many times, Saint Joseph is the patron saint of fliers. See Bibliotheca sanctorum VI, pp.1300-03.
17th century Daniel Mögling An inventor who is said to have raised a man and lowered him again safely by means of hidden bellows. As Erasmus Francisci says: 'Even if this is true, to have been lifted and let down again is not to have flown.' Erasmus Francisci, Der Wunder-reiche Uberzug unserer Nider-Welt (Nuremburg: 1680) p. 370.
2 February 1739/40 Robert Cadman A funambulist showman, Cadman attempted to slide down a cord from near the top of the spire of Saint Mary's church, Shrewbury, to the other side of the Severn. The inscription on the west wall of the church appears to say that he was trying to fly. He fell and died, aged twenty-eight, when the cord broke as a result of having been overtightened. H. Owen and J.B. Blakeway, A History of Shrewsbury II (London: 1825) pp. 409-11n.