The appearance of the craft in the novel is very limited. The main character, an unnamed narrator, does not himself actually see the machines in action. He only sees it once in London, lifeless as the other machines, believing the Martians were simply experimenting to try to get it to work before their deaths. Despite this and testimony from an artilleryman, he is skeptical that they had discovered the "Secret of Flying" until he reads it in a post-invasion issue of the Daily Mail.
There has been issue over the flying-machine's purpose. Though it is often cited to be used to dispense the black smoke, there is nothing definite in the novel to back this up. However, in the original serialized version, which differs noticeably in parts from the version later published as a novel, Wells gave a little more information on the flying-machines:
It is not known whether this version from Pearson's Magazine is considered canon.
The appearance of the machine has only so far been depicted once onscreen in the Pendragon Pictures's film, H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds, where it makes an appearance after the battle with the HMS Thunder Child, which is later recounted from the perspective of the artilleryman.
However, it appeared briefly in the film adaptation of Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds , though the album itself does not make any reference to the flying-machine.
There are some who perceive the machines of the 1953 film, which bear little resemblance to the tripods of the novel, as reference to the flying-machines although the look of these machines actually simply derive from the complication of making convincing tripod effects, and were given "invisible legs" to give the machines support and lift from the ground. In the pilot episode of the War of the Worlds TV series, a sequel to the film, these same machines are seen but the "legs" are not present and are given more of a look of taking flight, but still possess the speed and movement of their film counterparts.
The flying-machines are also featured in both the computer game and Playstation game The War of the Worlds. In the games, the flying-machines are equipped with one Heat-Ray and light armor, but in turn, are highly maneuverable and extremely fast. A common tactic in the PC game involves the mass production of these units in order to rush an entrenched human sector.
In Sherlock Holmes's War of the Worlds, the Martians only have a single flying-machine with them, and it is described as being shaped like a traditional flying saucer. In the postscript, when the Martians invade Venus, the flying-machine is shown to have been unable to handle the thicker atmosphere and crashed onto the surface.
In Superman: War of the Worlds, the flying-machine is not a separate machine; instead it is actually a part of the tripods as in the climax of the story, Superman tries to bring down a fighting-machine by pulling its legs, only to find that the hood of the machine has detached itself and is floating in the air, as the Martians have had time to adjust to Earth's gravity. He destroys the machine by throwing another tripod under it, canceling its negation of gravity.
Scarlet Traces is a sequel based on Great Britain having benefited from the remains of the Martian technology. While spider-like machines have dominated the means of land travel, the Martians' flying-machines have greatly influenced air travel, with aircraft by 1908 looking close to modern era planes.