Enrico Forlanini’s contribution to aviation

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Borri, M.
Calabro, S.
Cardani, C.
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Enrico Forlanini was one of the first students of Politecnico di Milano, where he graduated in 1875. Very well known in Milan, where he was born in 1848, is much less known elsewhere, especially outside Italy since he operated only at home even though some of his patents were also deposited abroad. Precursor of many developments that aviation would have had in a few decades, he is famous in particular for airships, of which he designed, built and flew several models of the semi-rigid structural type. However, his first interest, and he was still very young, was for heavier than air. After having tested smaller models with different propulsive solutions, he built a large helicopter model which flew in 1877, the first flying machine able to rise from the ground carrying its steam engine. One of the most important achievement of Forlanini are the hydrofoil designs that he tested, starting from 1898 until 1911, on Lake Maggiore close to Milan. He called them idrotteri and Graham Bell, who had to become famous for his own inventions, had the chance to have a ride in one of them. Forlanini has left many sketches in which we see the evolution of idrotteri that prefigures the realization of vehicles able to rise from the water and take flight as a seaplane.