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Otto Lilienthal, pioneer of aviation

18 Mar

Insects fly since 300 millions year from now. Naturally, by observing the various modes of flying that natural world show to all of us, create the desire to fly in humans, and Icarus, the son of the master craftman Daedallus that invented the labyrinthus, wanted to fly to the Sun and fall.

«17th-century relief with a Cretan labyrinth bottom right (Musée Antoine Vivenel) -Wikipedia
The dragonfly, flies since 300 millions ago…

A long time after the Greek mythology evoked this desire to fly, Leonardo da Vinci dreams to fly and design several flying machines.

But it was Otto Lilienthal (23 May 1848 – 10 August 1896), a German pioneer of aviation, and also known as the “flying man” that, with braveness and a systematic series of experiments that opened the skies to us.


He made his own hill and glider, and systematically investigate the behavior of different airfoils and the principles of gliding, on how to generate lift and control of flight. He collected a lot of data, later used by the Wright brothers. Unfortunately, on 9 August 1896, while testing a new glider, the airfoil stalled and he falls from above 15 m, breaking his neck and dying the next day. Fearing to have the same fate, the Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, used the wind tunnel to be sure that the aircraft was stable, were controllable, and they flew about 6 meters above the ground… With the obsession of stability, in Europe, people were building aircraft so stable that was impossible to make a turn, but the Wright brothers succeed to make the airplane stable but also sufficiently agile in order to make turns with it. They succeed in making the first circular flight by a powered airplane on September 20, 1904.

Astonishingly, from Otto Lilienthal to the Boeing 747 only about one hundred years elapsed…

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