Early Technical Development of Motorised Flight

Otto Lilienthal gliding

The first person to repeatedly – and more or less safely – fly a machine into the air that was neither balloon nor airship was Otto Lilienthal, a German. The gliding apparatus that he constructed, which he took off with from a hill (he termed it ‘airfield’) were basically gliders (as we would recognise them). With these he made thousands of short gliding flights until he crashed to his death in 1896.

Otto Lilienthal gliding

The Wright brothers constructed a motor-driven airplane built on the knowledge of Otto Lilienthal, and proceeded to make history with the first engine flight on 17.12.1903. Apparently a German/American man, Gustav Weißkopf, made a motorised flight two years earlier – but this has only been confirmed by witnesses reporting it. After that, in November 1903, still a month before the alleged first motorised flight in history, Karl Jatho from Hannover in northern Germany covered a distance of 60 m with his much improved version of a motorised Kite nr. 2.

December 17, 1903. First flight of the Wright brothers
December 17, 1903. First flight of the Wright brothers

Early postcard from around 1911. Automobile of the German Imperial Automobile-Corps and an Albatros doubledecker

Early postcard from around 1911. Automobile of the
German Imperial Automobile-Corps and an Albatros
doubledecker

This development of an airplane with an engine became more readily possible by technology in general being taken by storm. Electricity was put into use, steamships crossed the world´s oceans, the telegraph transmitted messages across continents in a very short time, the first moving pictures – even if rather wobbly – were being made, and also a combustion engine was invented and being further developed. Correspondingly, the first cars came onto the streets and soon astonished people saw engine-driven flying-machines go up which were heavier than the air around them.

 

Impressum - Mail

The Early Prussian Aviators and their Daggers - By Vic Diehl and H.Hampe