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MAKE subscriber Will Pickering sent us a link to this fascinating video. Will writes:

This came through one of my steam email lists. Pretty cool plane modified with a 150hp flash boiler steam engine. Made for an almost silent airplane. And it can even go in reverse!

From the lengthy YouTube description:

A Travel Air 2000 biplane made the world’s first piloted flight under steam power over Oakland, California, on 12 April 1933. The strangest feature of the flight was its relative silence; spectators on the ground could hear the pilot when he called to them from mid-air. The aircraft, piloted by William Besler, had been fitted with a two-cylinder, 150 hp reciprocating engine.

[Thanks, Will!]

The Besler Steam Plane

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.



  1. SDC says:

    That wasn’t particularly impressive.

  2. says:

    Quiet and 150hp are fantastic. Carrying enough water and fuel to make it a viable aircraft for any distance is the tough part, as both water and fuel are heavy.

    And let us not forget John Hartford:

    1. Gareth Branwyn says:

      “Take us home on the ol’ steam-powered airplane..”

  3. anon says:

    it’s a life size airhogs model plane

  4. John Corall says:

    Hail steam. Water (Hydrogen and Oxygen) and electricity the key to future energy generation and uses.