Yesterday Dr. James DeLaurier, an aeronautical engineer and professor emeritus at the University of Toronto’s Institute for Aerospace Studies, fulfilled a lifelong dream, seeing his manned mechanical flapping-wing airplane, or ornithopter, fly ? a dream first imagined by Leonardo da Vinci. And with the successful flight DeLaurier has been lucky enough to touch what many describe as the Holy Grail of aeronautical design, achieving a place for himself, his team of volunteers and students in aviation history. … Humanity has always been fascinated by the idea of man flying like a bird. The Greeks told mythic tales about Daedalus and Icarus who fled the Labyrinth on wings of wax and feathers. Da Vinci was so fascinated with the idea he conceived an elaborate plan for an ornithopter ? a design that, DeLaurier said, would never fly because the materials would be too heavy.And so DeLaurier was moved to build what many have thought impossible ? a manned engine-powered, flapping-wing airplane that would take off unaided.
Here is a large video of when they tried in 1999. Pretty awesome to watch.