Flapping flight by
Erich von Holst and Karl Herzo
1. Prof. Dr. Erich von Holst
Erich v. Holst (1908-1962) researched on biological and aerodynamic problems of animal flight. In interplay between creative flying models, many experiments and consequentially thoughts he reached new perceptions about the flapping flight. Thereby a main focus of his work was on the determination of force distributions along the wing on up and downstroke.
These conceptions of the aerodynamics and flight mechanics of flapping flight were the basis for his new wing designs with the corresponding drive mechanisms. Each of his flapping wing models was equipped with an especially for this designed rubber motor.
Erich von Holst explained the propulsion or thrust generation of birds in cruising flight by the shifting of lift along the wing. Correspondingly he wrote in his paper about artificial birds as a means of studying the flight of birds (1943):
- Basic principle of lift and thrust generation in the flight of birds
- This is the original image with unequal cycle times. An image with equal cycle times, see The principle of flight / How birds fly
It would be the ideal situation for the bird when during the downstroke of the wing the arm section and during the upstroke the hand section was missing. You can make it plausible if you imagine, the wing area would be reduced and could slip along the arm. It would then be shifted on the top of the stroke to the wing tip and on the bottom point to the wing root. In this way, seen over a whole flapping period, while maintaining the transverse force Q (or the lift) the thrust S gets larger than the backward directed force R. This ingenious trick of nature solves the mystery of bird flight.
That you can even use the energy loss associated with the rearward directed drive R and can recover again (see The principle of flight) was not yet known at that time.
This view of the flapping flight by E. v. Holst - with his combination of theory and practice - has strongly influenced the development of my EV ornithopter models shown here.
There is film footage with sequences in slow motion of some flapping
wing models by E. v. Holst in the 1940's. It can be seen the large model
Swan and the model of a Brimstone Butterfly
in flight. Furthermore there is shown his
This video is an excerpt from the film
Wings Over the World.
1.1 Publications by Erich von Holst
Erich v. Holst, Tierflug und Modellflug.
Luftfahrt und Schule, 6. Jahrgang, Dez. 1940,
Heft 3, Seite 24-26 Berlin-Charlottenburg 2
Animated pictures of a slow motion film from this article. One can see the rise off ground of a rubber-powered ornithopter and particularly the changing of the angle of incidence at the wing root recommended by Erich von Holst.
Erich v. Holst and Dietrich Küchemann,
Biologische und aerodynamische Probleme des Tierflugs. Naturwissenschaften 13. Juni 1941, Volume 29, Issue 24-25, pp 348-362 Springer-Verlag, Berlin
Holst, E. von and Küchemann
Biological and Aerodynamical Problems of Animal Flight. Royal Aeronautical Society Journal, vol. 46
Erich v. Holst, Gesammelte Abhandlungen
1.2 Crank drive for generating
the stroke and
twisting movement of a flapping wing
The rubber powered crank drive with a filament gear, developed by Prof. E. v. Holst, generates the stroke and the twisting movement of the wing at the same time. Thereto, the linkage coming from the crank pin is pivot-mounted only in stroke direction at the spar of the flapping wing. But in rotating direction it is not pivotable.
Thereby, the up and down movement of the crank pin is used to drive the stroke movement of the spar. At the same time the back and forward movement of the crank pin is used for rotating the spar. Furthermore, the spar is inflexible connected with only one of the outer ribs (Ri). Thus, the crank mechanism actively effects the twisting of the flapping wing. Stroke and rotating movement of the wing spars are phase-delayed by 90 degrees.
You can find descriptions of several rubber motors in the articles by Karl Herzog (in German) of March und April 1963 below.
2. Karl Herzog
A great admirer of E. v. Holst was the academic painter and university painter Karl Herzog from Tübingen. In general he has done a very great service to the documentation of Erich von Holst's models. Mr. Herzog also drew and built his own bird models according to the models of E. v. Holst and has been busy intensively with the flight of birds. Karl Herzog has been my pen friend over many years.
2.1 Flapping wing flight in nature and science
In the year 1963/64 the modelling magazine
published a series of articles by Karl Herzog with the title
in der Natur und in der Technik
Among other things he drawed and described there how the models by E. v. Holst can be built. Below, these articles are available separately in PDF-format (all in German). But there is also a compilation (PDF 9.0 MB) of all articles.
Efforts in the history of flying
PDF 1.5 MB
Biophysics of the bird flight
PDF 1.4 MB
Efforts in the history of flying
PDF 1.9 MB
This issue contains the specification of the
flapping wing model
On the left the artificial Rhamphorhynchus by E. v. Holst is in flight. The
pterosaur has been powered by a rubber motor. Together with the clever filament
gear the drive is pictured in the
Gesammelte Abhandlungen, Band II
by E. v. Holst (p. 116 and 136). Please look at
Efforts in the history of flying
This is the plan of the flapping wing model
Swan by E. v. Holst, drawn by K. Herzog.
There is also a video of the
Swan (look above).
This edition consists the specification of the model
the plan of the model
PDF 1.0 MB
Here is a design study of flapping wings by Karl Herzog. At the version A and B the axis of the hand wing runs obliquely in relation to the flight direction, like on birds. Other designers of flapping wings mostly aligned it parallel to the longitudinal axis of the wing (like version C).
PDF 0.4 MB
Animated pictures from the
of an old slow motion film (by Erich von Holst: Über
Vögel als Mittel zum Studium des Vogelflugs. Journal für Ornithologie,
Band 91, 1943).
The animation shows a climb flight of the artificial bird of about 30 deg and a flapping period of 2.5 per second. There is to seen the small rotation of the wing root and the wing twisting.
Buzzard with electric drive
The model has had a crank drive mechanism according to the crank by E. v. Holst and the relevant drawings by Karl Herzog (see above).
Wege zum technischen Schwingenflug
Today, the Aue-Verlag, Möckmühl, Germany, owns the copyright of this series by Karl Herzog. Text and drawings may not be published elsewhere.
2.2 Further works by Karl Herzog
Later Karl Herzog has written the
Anatomie und Flugbiologie
der Vögel, published 1968. At the pages 136 to 168 it contains
Demonstration of the animal flight on the basis of bird models
and flapping flight gadgets. Regrettably the book is not available today.
Furthermore he has written a treatise (in German) about the
Phylogenetic development of dispersibility by birds
a chronological listing of the developments of flying models and
much more (partly unpublished).
His bird model
powered by a rubber motor in flight
2.3 Deutsches Museum
Herzog has also played an important part in the
design of the permanent exhibition
Flight in nature
in the Deutsches Museum in Munich.
Show-case in the Deutsches Museum
Demonstration model with an active arm wing twisting by a pitching motion of the spare, built 1985 by suggestion and plans of Karl Herzog.
Plan of the functional model
in the show case to show the stroke- and twisting motions of the wings during the flapping flight of birds.