Musings on Building a Better Mousetrap (or Airplane)


While visiting the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, AZ last week, I was overwhelmed by the vast array of flying machines on display. That got me thinking about how one idea, manned flight, bloomed into hundreds of variations. Provincial minds might have thought after the Wright brothers’ first successful flight, “Been there, done that,” and gone back to their holes in the ground.

But Neo-Renaissance types of the early 20th Century saw immense possibilities in aerospace. As a result, new ideas  and improvements were built upon existing technology until the air and space flight industry is almost the tail wagging the technology dog when you consider manned and unmanned space flight on top of low-cost airplane flight available to billions of people to every corner of the world, for a relative pittance compared to other forms of travel.

As a result, new ideas  and improvements were built upon existing technology until the air and space flight industry is almost the tail wagging the technology dog when you consider manned and unmanned space flight on top of low-cost airplane flight available to billions of people to every corner of the world, for a relative pittance compared to other forms of travel.

Here’s a sampling of the unique aircraft that have been invented and developed over the decades. Keep in mind all those variations were built upon the original Wright brothers’ breakthrough that enabled man to escape gravity for at least a short time. So many great minds have gone into giving us the myriad options we enjoy in air flight. Truly inspiring for us writers who think there are no novels left to write, or composers who think every song that could be written has been written.

early Wright Brothers plane

early Wright Brothers plane

World’s smallest aircraft, the Starr Bumble Bee

Bede Aircraft Company's BD-5J Microjet. World's smallest jet aircraft

Bede Aircraft Company’s BD-5J Microjet. World’s smallest jet aircraft

US Navy Seasprite Helicopter

US Marines Grumman Cougar

Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird–World’s fastest jet (Mach 3)

McCulloch Super J-2 gyrocopter

McCulloch Super J-2 gyrocopter

Pereirea/Hummel Model 2 Osprey 2

Pereira/Hummel Model 2 Osprey 2

Bell UH-1M Iroquois Helicopter

Bell UH-1M Iroquois Helicopter

What invention impresses you as a basic idea that has been developed and improved far beyond its original comprehension?

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