Maxim's flying machine after its 'flight' of 31st July 1894.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Photograph showing Maxim (third from left) examining the wreckage. Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim (1840-1916) designed and built this flying machine in 1893-1894. He had previously found fame by inventing the machine gun. It was the largest aeroplane to lift off briefly from the ground in the 19th century, having a 104-foot wingspan and weighing 8000 lbs. Powered by two 180 hp steam engines to drive propellers, the biplane was launched from a broad gauge railway track. Maxim did numerous trials on this aeroplane at Baldwin's Park, Bexleyheath, Kent, where on 31st July 1894 it briefly took to the air before crashing. Afterwards Maxim modified the aircraft to offer rides along the launch track to visitors to Baldwin's Park.