“The sun sank into grey clouds, the sky flushed and darkened, the evening star trembled into sight. It was deep twilight when the captain cried out and pointed. My brother strained his eyes. Something rushed up into the sky out of the greyness–rushed slantingly upward and very swiftly into the luminous clearness above the clouds in the western sky; something flat and broad, and very large, that swept round in a vast curve, grew smaller, sank slowly, and vanished again into the grey mystery of the night. And as it flew it rained down darkness upon the land.” – Chapter Seventeen: The Thunder Child
The atmosphere on Mars is much thinner than on Earth and despite the lower gravity, it would be almost impossible to engineer a glider to achieve aerial transport on Mars. It is a testament to the cerebral abilities of the Martians that they were able to engineer and build a flying machine in a matter of weeks following invasion. While our best minds on Earth, with years of experience manage to glide awkwardly, these invaders soared!
The Flying Machine was salvaged from the pit and moved to a British Army training ground for study. While scientists and engineers from all around the world clamoured for access to Martian technology, the Army sought out Hiram Stevens Maxim, an American-born inventor who had invented the Maxim machine gun and had spent over a decade working on winged flying machines up at West Norwood. Maxim was a portly gentleman with a bushy white beard and unkempt hair. He could often be seen pacing up and down past the massive sheds which housed the Martian machine and his many decidedly-earthbound prototypes, bawling loudly at his assistants. He would work twenty-hour days and expect the same of his staff: as well as insane, the man was profoundly deaf! He proposed to meld the design of the Martian machine with human engineering principles – adopting the work of Elling and Barber in the production of a reliable turbine engine.
It took months for Maxim to produce a flying machine which could be operated by a human. But then, what a sight!