The aircraft propeller looks like a simple mechanism to the uneducated individual. To the educated, an aircraft propeller represents the highest sophistication in aerodynamics, mechanical engineering and structural design. The creation of the propeller can be traced back to Leonardo da Vinci. Da Vinci's "helical screw" helicopter is believed to be the ancestor of the air propeller and the helicopter rotor. .
The first idea of a propulsive airscrew, however, belongs to J.P. Paucton, a French mathematician. Paucton envisioned a flying machine that had two airscrews, one for propulsion and the other for sustaining flight. The idea of using an airscrew for propulsion was utilized during the late 1700's to early 1800's. Only after experimentation did the inventors conclude that more propulsive power could be obtained by merely straightening out the surface of the airscrew blades. .
The basic propeller had evolved from the simple concepts of da Vinci, and was slowly becoming an effective means of aerial propulsion. To reach the next plateau of flight an increased knowledge of the propeller would be needed, and the mysteries of the propeller and mechanical power would need to be solved. Throughout the 19th century, aviation pioneers explored and tinkered with the concepts of flight to design a viable airship. Other experimenters, who were convinced that man flight should have wings, worked to establish basic principles in aerodynamics, flight stability and control, as well as propulsion. .
Controlled mechanical flight came on August 9, 1884. Charles Renard and A.C. Krebs flew the airship "La France" on a closed circuit from Chalais-Meudon to Villacoublay and back in 23 minutes. The airship "La France" as powered by a 9 horsepower electric motor that drove a 23ft diameter propeller and reached a speed of 14.5 mph. This flight was the birth of the dirigible, a steerable, lighter-than-air ship with adequate propulsion.