In 1879, M Victor Tatin built a twin-propellor model aeroplane weighing 1.75 kg, powered by compressed air.
The main body of the plane was a cylindrical reservoir filled with air, fitted with conical caps at each end for streamlining, and apparently having some sort of spiral reinforcement. The air reservoir had a capacity of 8 litres, and is quoted as resisting a pressure of "20 kg", which presumably means 20 kg per square centimetre, equivalent to 284 psi.
The plan view shows a centrally mounted compressed-air motor coupled to the two contra-rotating propellors by a transverse shaft and bevel gearing. A pressure gauge can be seen just behind the motor. The construction of the motor is currently unknown.
The model is reported to have taken off when its forward speed reached 8 metres per second (18 mph), and it was flown successfully in circles, tethered to a central point, at the military establishment at Chalais-Meudon in 1879. It circled at about head height. The duration of flights was not reported.
It is notable that this model has quite a modern look, considering it was built 24 years before the Wright brothers flew in 1903. Note, however, that there appear to be no control surfaces; Tatin had not solved the problem of controlling an aeroplane in flight.
In 1890 Tatin and his associate Ch Richet went on to build a steam-powered aeroplane model weighing 33 kg, which made at least one short flight.
From La Navigation Aérienne by Le Cornu. Pub by Librarie Nony & Co, 1903