Motor Glider: A sailplane equipped with a small motor to allow it to take off unaided. The idea is to shut the motor down once you reach a safe altitude and proceed by soaring, and the first designs date from the 1930s. The propeller usually folds away or feathers its blades to reduce drag, and fuel tanks tend to be modest in capacity. One or two models manage to stow the whole motor away. Electric versions exist, taking advantage of the need for only a few minutes of battery life. Small jet engines have also been tried.
Tech Level: A wood and cloth glider with a gunpowder rocket could be pre-industrial, so it could fit Alternative History or Time Travel. I like the idea of a clockwork version, just so I can say Clockpunk. Motor gliders with electric motors or small gasoline engines need Steampunk or Dieselpunk levels of technology.
Appeared In: I’m sure I read a Post-Apocalyptic story with one of these. The hero appreciated it for its infrequent need for refueling. Sorry, I cannot remember the author or title. Search engines are frustratingly unhelpful; I wish I had the memory for books authors that Jo Walton does.
For Your Plot: A wood and fabric glider pushed to altitude by a gunpowder rocket would be huge fun, but (talk about your blaze of glory) highly flammable. A more modern version should be in every Omega Man’s toolkit. Just think of the grief Bill Masen could have avoided in Day of the Triffids if he could have just flown to the Isle of Man.