William Henson's model of his 'aerial Steam Carriage', 1845-1847.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Model (scale 1:7). In 1842 William Samuel Henson (1812-1888) patented a design for a steam-powered monoplane which he called an 'aerial Steam Carriage'. The machine was never built but Henson and his partner, John Stringfellow, later constructed this scale model of the machine with which they carried out trials in 1845. Henson and Stringfellow planned to set up an airfreight company, the 'aerial Steam Transit Company', to transport goods around the world. However sustained flight was never achieved and, in 1847, Henson abandoned his plans and emigrated to the United States. Although its flights were limited, this was the first powered aircraft to be built, albeit a model, that in any way approached a rational design.