In the 1890s English-domiciled American millionaire Hiram Maxim was in the forefront of inventors convinced that the key
to flighl was engine power. He spent £20,000 a substantial part of the fortune he had made out of the Maxim machine-gan-buildings a massive 8,000lb aircraft.
With its welded steel – tube airefraime and biplane wings spanning over 100ft, this behemoth was powered by two steam engines driving two pusher propellers, each 17ft 10in in diameter. There were fore and aft elevators for control in the vertical plane, while turning
was to be achieved by varying the power delivered to each of the propellers.
Maxim did not initially intend the aircraft to be flown if it had risen freely it would certainly have crashed. Instead, it was mounted on a track, with restraining rails to prevent it lifting more than 2ft into the air.
0n 31 July 1894, at Baldwyn’s Park in Kent, the mighty machine was prepared for a test run. Accelerating to 42mph, it lifted until all of its outrigger wheels were engaged on the restraining rails. But disaster soon struck. An axle failed, restraining rail broke, and the machine crashed to a halt. No further “flights” were attempted,