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23rd of May 1848

On this day in aviation history in the town of Anklam, in what is now northeast Germany, Otto Lilienthal is born. He would become one of the most well-known aviation pioneers. While he builds and attempted flight with self-built gliders like many other early aviation pioneers, he was one of the few that documented all his flights.

Together with his brother Gustav Lilienthal (1849-1933), he studied birds flying and based on their studies made birdlike wings which he would strap on, BUt was unsuccessful in his attempts to fly. In 1894 he filled a patent in the USA, which contained a "bar" for control of the flying machine. This bar is now the frame in hang gliders.

He builds several gliders and made more than 2000 documented flight. A purpose build hill, "Windmühlenberg" near the villages of Krielow and Derwitzserved as a launching platform for his flights. Using the updraft against the hill he went from short hops to 820 ft distance.

Karl Wilhelm Otto Lilienthal


Five of his gliders survive till his day.

Sadly he did not survive a crash on the 9th of August 1896 when on the 4th flight of the day he lost control and crashed from a height of about 50ft, he would die 36 hours later of his injuries.

Otto Lilienthal in fligth

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