Look up in the sky... It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a BAT?? No, Steampunk fans, it's an Ader Éole
, an early steam-powered aircraft developed by Clément Ader in 1890, and named after the Greco-Roman wind god Aeolos. Unlike many early flying machines, the Éole
did not attempt to fly by flapping its wings, but relied on the lift generated by its wings (mechanical copies of bat wings). Its steam engine was an unusually light-weight design and drove a propeller (only one!) at the front of the aircraft. The Éole
is considered by some to be the first true airplane, as its first flight predated the Wright brothers' exploits at Kitty Hawk by six years. Here is an image of an airmail semi-postal stamp depicting a "modern" two-engine airplane flying in the shadow of the Ader Éole
, designed and engraved by Pierre Gandon, and issued by France on February 22, 1947 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Ader aircraft's first flight, Scott No CB3, Y&T No. PA23.