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Lilienthal Glider
Photo from archives of the Otto Lilienthal Museum
...The creator of this glider, Otto Lilienthal, was one of the the first humans to fly. His writings and glider designs helped to inspire the Wright brothers.

Wingspan: 6.7 meters (22 feet)
Length: 5 meters (16 feet)
Weight: 24 kg (52 pounds)

Otto Lilienthal (1848-1896), an engineer from Anklam, Germany, was one of the first humans to glide through the air. He became a pioneer of unpowered human flight by building and flying the world's first hang gliders.

Lilienthal built several different types of gliders, and made around 5000 flights between 1891-1896. Using his gliders, he flew as high as 984 feet, and would sometimes stay in the air for up to five hours. Many of his gliders, such as the one we have on display, feature cambered wings, which means the wings were slightly curved on top to increase lift. Other designs used two wings, one positioned over the other in the biplane style. The Wright brothers were inspired by Lilienthal's designs, and the famous plane they used for the first powered flight was built in the biplane configuration.

Lilienthal's gliders were carefully designed to distribute weight as evenly as possible to ensure a stable flight. To control the roll of the gliders, pilots would swing their bodies from left to right, using their own weight to change the direction of the glider.

Near the end of his life, Lilienthal started to experiment with powered flight and built the first 4-cycle internal combustion engine. Unfortunately, however, Lilienthal died when a wind gust caught his glider during a flight and he fell.


The Science Center's Lilienthal Glider
Our Lilienthal glider is a full scale model of an original Lilienthal 'normal-glider'. Eight gliders of this design were distributed around the world. Only samples or parts of the original 'normal-glider' and the 'storm wing model' have been preserved.

The craftspeople who originally constructed the model included an inscription in German, which says,
"Aus Berlin - Staaken
de besten gruesse an das
freie land Amerika von den erbauern."

Translated, the inscription reads,
"From Berlin - Staaken
the best wishes to the
free country America
from the constructors."


Otto Lilienthal Museum
Almost all you could ever need to know about Lilienthal and his gliders can be found on this site, created by the Otto Lilienthal Museum in Germany.

Lilienthal 1894 Glider
The Smithsonian put together this site on the Lilienthal glider that is part of their collection. The page contains information about Lilienthal's work in aerodynamic theory as well as details about the glider.

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