by Carrol Henderson and Michael A. Kallok
For thousands of years, humans have watched with wonder and envy as birds fly. People first tried to fly like birds by imitating the flapping of wings. In the late 1400s, Leonardo da Vinci created a wing-flapping contraption called an ornithopter (from the Greek word ornithos for bird and pteron for wing). He thought flying was simply a matter of flapping wings up and down. The ornithopter didn't work because he did not understand how bird wings must generate lift and thrust to fly.
Today, airplanes with powerful engines can fly long distances. But human-made machines will probably never match the natural power and grace of birds on the wing. Birds have feathers and bones adapted for flight. With these adaptations, they can take off, hover, soar, glide, dive, and land in amazing ways.
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