Posts Tagged ‘German pioneer of aviation’

Otto Lilienthal’s Last Glider Flight

Friday, August 9th, 2013

This day in history marks Otto Lilienthal’s last glider flight. He was a German pioneer of aviation and became known as the Glider King and Father of Flight. The date of his last flight was 9 August 1896. It was a beautiful summer day in Stoelln, about 60 kilometers northwest of Berlin, when Otto Lilienthal stepped into his harness for the last time. He had already made three successful flights that day and had attained his usual flying distance of over 800 feet. On the fourth attempt, he was slowly gliding into the valley when an unexpected sudden gust caught him off guard. His glider pitched and stalled. The Glider King lost control and crashed to the ground.

Otto Lilienthal had piloted gliders since 1891. During those five years, he made over 3000 flights and built 18 different contraptions. His largest double decker glider had a wingspan of 23 feet. His designs were similar to today’s frames for hang gliders and ultralight aircraft. He and his younger brother Gustav had tinkered with strap-on wings, using willow switches and cotton fabric, since Otto was fourteen. The storks near their home along the River Peene had been their inspiration. The brothers proceeded to study the flight of birds and soon recognized that the principal of aerodynamics is involved in flight and that wings need to have a curvature.

Otto Lilienthal German Pionier of Aviation He crashed on 9 August 1896

Otto Lilienthal
German Pionier of Aviation
He crashed on 9 August 1896

On Otto Lilienthal’s last glider flight on 9 August, 1896, he dropped from a height of about 50 feet, still in his glider. As he was placed on a cot, he is reported to have said, “I hardly have any pain. I’m just going to rest a little bit.” He, in fact, had fractured his spine and died from the injuries the following day.

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.