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

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor for Boing Boing and WINK Books. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

  • SDC

    That wasn’t particularly impressive.


    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:

    • Gareth Branwyn

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

  • anon

    it’s a life size airhogs model plane

  • John Corall

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