Flying machines (aka aircraft) are a product of gnomish, goblin, and dwarven ingenuity. They are mechanical marvels that serve alongside the famed Wildhammer gryphon riders of Aerie Peak to form the backbone of Alliance air power.
Flying machines are by definition mechanical devices capable of flight. Gnomes, dwarves, and goblins have all been known to create flying machines, and they have been put to extensive use as weapons of war by the Alliance.
There are several general families of flying machines each corresponding to a specific mechanism being exploited in order to provide lift (the force which allows flight). Lighter-than-air flying machines, typified by goblin zeppelins, are machines which employ bags filled with gas to make them buoyant in the air. Heavier-than-air flying machines employ wing surfaces and movement to produce lift, either using a fixed wing, or a spinning rotor.
Since their invention, flying machines have been employed for all the same tasks for which flying creatures have been used, including personal transportation, combat, and observation.
It is known that flying machines predate the First War. By the time of the Second War, they could be constructed by gnomish inventors for the Alliance. Similarly, it was in this conflict that the horde encountered the goblin race and began to make use of their zeppelins. Although flying machines were initially employed as observers, by the time of the Third War they were frequently employed as combatants and transports.
Types of flying machines
Gnomes are particularly smitten with flying machines. The first flying machines built by the gnomes were the Whirligig and the Sky-engine. The gnomish flying machines that served the Alliance during the Second War were unarmed gnomish copters, but today, Gnomish bombers and gnomish biplanes can be found serving in a variety of theaters for the Alliance. There are even fabulous flying machines like gnomish airships. The gnomes were also partly responsible for the creation of the gunship The Skybreaker, although the influence of dwarven aesthetics is quite evident.
During the Third War, when Gnomeregan was besieged by the troggs, the inguenious dwaven engineers of Ironforge provided aircraft to the Alliance. They constructed the ultimate airborne scout vehicle, the armed gyrocopters that were large enough to seat a dwarven pilot. In the aftermath of the Third War the dwarves developed a practical and sturdy twin-engine fixed-wing flying machine with a grappling hook and a variety of weapons. While the gnomes have emerged from their isolation and are now living amongst the dwarves as neighbors, the dwarves continue to use their homegrown design extensively.
The goblin zeppelin consists of a gondola of varying size suspended beneath one or more bags of lightweight gas that serve to keep the craft aloft. In keeping with the goblin fixation upon profit, these large craft tend to packed with cargoes or paying passengers. On occasion the goblins have been persuaded or paid to construct zeppelins for the purpose of making war, such as the Orgrim's Hammer or the zeppelins used during the Second War.
Engineer Flying Machine
In patch 2.3, engineer-only flying machines (also known as "zoomers") were released. They come in both epic and non-epic versions. It has the tiltable wing turbine/propeller rotors of the dwarven flying machine, and a retractable lift rotor for higher altitudes. In action, it looks like this.
Wintergrasp flying machines
In Wrath of the Lich King, flying machines were to be included as siege vehicles. Two variants exist at the moment. Fighters are single seat flying machines that look identical to the dwarven flying machines seen in Ironforge and occasionally in quests or protecting cities in Outland. Bombers are tandem seat flying machines that are based on a stripped down version of the gnomish biplane. The second seat replaces the boiler, and the upper wing has been removed.
In addition, several flight masters provide some kind of aircraft instead of the usual gryphon:
- Fizzcrank Airstrip, Borean Tundra: Biplane
- Nesingwary Base Camp, Sholazar Basin: The Spirit of Gnomeregan (unpainted flying machine)
- River's Heart, Sholazar Basin: Unpainted flying machine
- Transit from Dalaran to Sholazar Basin: Archmage Pentarus' Flying Machine (turbo-charged flying machine)
- Transit from Dalaran to either the Skybreaker or Orgrim's Hammer: Turbo-charged flying machine
- Transit from Valgarde to Explorers' League Outpost, Howling Fjord: Dwarven flying machine