The Beginning of Soaring flight


Otto Lilienthal was a German inventor whose experiments in flight helped pave the way for the Wright Brothers. Many flight enthusiasts believe that without Lilienthal's research in aeronautics the Wright Brothers would not have achieved flight within their lifetime.

Lilienthal spent countless hours studying birds in flight and poring over the designs created by other men who wanted to fly. Noting the differences between the design of birds' wings and man-made wings, Lilienthal found what he believed to be the secret to flight. Birds' wings were cambered, but the wings designed by man were not. Lilienthal began building gilders with wings that resembled those of birds and bats. In the five years between 1891 and 1896, he had built 16 different gliders and completed 2000 flights. He became so well known that, in an effort to create publicity and boost the circulation of his newspaper, William Randolph Hearst sponsored test flights of a Lilienthal glider in 1896. Driven by his dream, Lilienthal cared little about the notoriety of his experiments and the dismal failure of many of his designs. On August 9, 1896, Lilientha's flight experiments came to a tragic - although foreseeable - end when a strong gust of wind caused his glider to nose up sharply, stall, and crash. Lilienthal's spine was broken and he died the next day in a hospital in Berlin.


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Orville and Wilbur Wright solved the mysteries of flight
by experimenting with unpowered gliders on the sands of
Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Even after they became world
figures for inventing the powered airplane, the Wrights
remember the purity and thrill of unpowered flight.
Gliding was a great sport wrote Wilbur.


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