M.Goodall, A.Tagg British Aircraft before the Great War (Schiffer)
FROST ornithopters (Edward Purkis Frost, West Wratting Hall, Cambridgeshire)
Frost experimented with flapping wing devices, using actual goose feathers for the wing surfaces. Early trials in 1877, in association with Dr. F.W.H. Hutchison, of a large machine powered by a 5hp steam engine, with a total weight of 650 lb, were a failure when attempts were made to lift a man. This device had four sets of wings, with a maximum span of 30ft. Later tests of a small model, with 3 sq.ft of wing area, were carried out on a whirling arm, powered by a 2hp electric motor to produce the flapping motion, and this induced rotation of the arm.
A full scale machine, smaller than the 1877 machine, followed in 1905, powered by a petrol engine from a 3hp BAT motor cycle. With a span of 20ft and weighing 232 lb, it was constructed on a tubular frame on four wheels, with a platform on which the operator stood. It was said to have risen up to two feet in the air and tended to move forward. This machine had only one pair of wings. This work was reported to the Cambridge University Engineering Society and recorded in The Automotor Journal.
E.P. Frost was president of the Aeronautical Society from 1908 to 1911, until the more progressive members forced a reorganization of the Society and he retired. The 1905 machine exists at the Shuttleworth Collection and the model is preserved in the Science Museum.
P.Lewis British Aircraft 1809-1914 (Putnam)
Two of E. P. Frost's ornithopters are among the earliest flapping-wing machines to survive until the present day. The larger, weighing 650 lb. and intended to lift a man, was powered by a steam engine and is preserved by the Shuttleworth Trust. It was made in 1900, and the wings were constructed of cane and silk, with hundreds of natural feathers attached to form a close replica of a pair of bird's wings.
The smaller, of similar construction, was made in 1903 and was 16 ft. in maximum span. Power was by a single-cylinder 3 h.p. B.A.T. petrol engine. This machine is exhibited in the National Aeronautical Collection at the Science Museum. South Kensington, S.W.7 (illustrated).
Neither of these devices succeeded in rising from the ground, but they marked the culmination of more than ten years study of bird flight and a series of ingenious attempts to imitate it by mechanical means.