Otto Lilienthal – a German pioneer of aviation

Otto Lilienthal was born on May 23rd, 1848, in Anklam, Prussia, and died on August 10,1896, in Berlin, Germany. Lilienthal was a German inventor known for his pioneering works in aviation.

The German inventor graduated from the business school in Potsdam and the Berlin Academy of Commerce. He served in the Prussian army that fought France between 1870-1871. Later, after working in various industrial establishments for a while, he completely devoted himself to aviation.

Otto had become interested in aviation from a very young age. He studied and observed the flight of birds, especially the storks. He studied how storks float in the air without flapping their wings, and because of the curved structure of their wings, he began to think that horizontal flight could be made without the need for air currents or thrust power. In 1877, he began gliding experiments with wings. The real success was with an aircraft he developed in 1891. There was a circle bar in the middle part of that aircraft, which was composed of stretch cloths between the laths. Wings, tail, and other parts of the aircraft were around 7 meters in width and 20kg weight in total. Lilienthal clung to this circle, running up a hill, picking up speed and letting himself into the void and gliding. While in the air, he changed his direction with his body movements and maintained his balance.

Otto Lilienthal - a German pioneer of aviation
source: air & space magazine

Otto Lilienthal’s 2000 flight

Otto Lilienthal performed over 2000 flights from 1883 to 1886. With these achievements, Otto pioneered the rapid spread of gliding and becoming a popular sport of that time.

Otto Lilienthal - a German pioneer of aviation
source: krajevski, Alex/Otto-Lilienthal-Museum

Otto Lilienthal, who studied flying with biplane vehicles in 1895, thought of using an engine to provide propulsion to the wings in 1896. During his trial on Stollerier Mountain, his aerodynamic vehicle, which was not suitable for motorized flight, was broken into the air, and Otto was pulled to the ground. Severely injured in this accident, Otto died on 10 August 1896.

Otto Lilienthal museum.

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