The scientific tourist #36 — Lilienthal's "Storm Wing" glider

This week’s image comes from the Technisches (“Technical”) Museum in Vienna, Austria. It’s of the only surviving specimen of Otto Lilienthal‘s “Storm Wing” glider:


Otto Lilienthal was a German pioneer of flight. He spent the 1870s and 1880s conducting aerodynamic research, then went on to build and fly a number of successful full-sized glider models between 1891 and 1896. Most of Lilienthal’s gliders, like this one, were monoplanes with a stabilizing tail. The pilot (Lilienthal) controlled his gliding flight by shifting his body weight, much as in modern hang gliders. Unfortunately, Lilienthal’s system gave the pilot limited mobility, resulting in hard-to-control gliders. As a result, Lilienthal died a day after sustaining major injuries in a glider crash in 1896.

In spite of this, Lilienthal’s experiments moved the era of aeronautical experimentation forward, and helped break through the public perception that heavier-than-air flight was improbable, if not impossible.

FWIW, the “Storm Wing” glider of 1894 took its name from the fact that it had smaller wings than its predecessors, to better handle gusty winds in stormy weather.

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