Aviation Pioneers

Karl Jatho: The German Aviation Pioneer Who Claimed to Have Flown Before the Wright Brothers

Karl Jatho was a German inventor and aviation pioneer who was born in Hannover, Germany on February 3, 1873. He is best known for his claim to have made the first motor-powered flight in history, four months before the Wright brothers’ famous flight at Kitty Hawk.

Inspired from Otto Lilienthal

Jatho began his interest in aviation as a young boy. He was inspired by the work of Otto Lilienthal, a German glider pioneer who died in a crash in 1896. Jatho began experimenting with his own gliders in the late 1890s, and in 1903 he built a motor-powered biplane that he called the “Jatho-Drachen.”

On August 18, 1903, Jatho made his first flight in the Jatho-Drachen. The flight took place at the Vahrenwalder Heide airfield near Hanover. Jatho flew the plane for about 20 meters (66 feet) at an altitude of about 30 centimeters (1 foot). He made two more flights that day, one for about 50 meters (164 feet) and the other for about 80 meters (262 feet).

Jatho’s flights were witnessed by several people, including a notary public. However, his claims to have flown before the Wright brothers have been disputed by some historians. The Wright brothers’ flight at Kitty Hawk is generally considered to be the first controlled, sustained, powered flight in history.

Despite the controversy surrounding his claims, Karl Jatho is still considered to be an important figure in the history of aviation. He was a pioneer in the development of motor-powered flight, and his work helped to pave the way for the future of aviation.


featured image source: By Unknown author – Museum of History Hanover, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24926849