Oregon man brings Da Vinci’s vision to life
Ken Spence has taken a lifelong passion for aviation and the work of Leonardo da Vinci and built a full-scale, non-flying ornithopter from one of da Vinci’s most complex engineering drawings. The ornithopter is on display at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Ore.
According to Spence, the flying machine is a labor of love, requiring a year of effort and painstaking research. For years, Spence has wanted to recreate one of the flying machines that da Vinci sketched in notebooks centuries before the Wright brothers and other aviation pioneers took to the skies. The recreation builds upon Spence’s years of experience in creating aviation reproductions for museums, businesses, and scientific laboratories.
To get the scale of the parts correct, Spence laid out the drawing on a grid and used a computer-aided drafting system to determine dimensions and refine his design. For aspects of the drawing that weren’t fleshed out, Spence pored over details of other da Vinci drawings to determine how the inventor might have solved the problems he faced.
Spence was authentic in the use of materials, which da Vinci specified in his notes. Hand-tied rope, wood, leather, and steam-bent cane were used to fashion the exhibit, along with a few modern touches. For instance, Spence embedded wire rope into the hemp that makes the machine operable, so an electronic drive could be added later, if desired, to make the wings move while the machine is on display — power that in real life would be supplied by the pilot.
For more information: 503-434-4180