Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Victorious Sacrifice

No one can realize how substantial the air is, until he feels its supporting power beneath him. It inspires confidence at once.

~ Otto Lilienthal


Otto Lilienthal was a German pioneer of human aviation who became known as the Glider King. He was the first person to make well-documented, repeated, successful gliding flights.

On 9 August, 1896, Lilienthal's glider lost its lift and he fell from a height of 17 m (56 ft). He died of a broken spine the following day in Berlin, saying, "Kleine Opfer müssen gebracht werden!" ("Small sacrifices must be made!").

Lilienthal's research was well known to the Wright brothers, and they credited him as a major inspiration for their decision to pursue manned flight.

"Of all the men who attacked the flying problem in the 19th century, Otto Lilienthal was easily the most important. ... It is true that attempts at gliding had been made hundreds of years before him, and that in the nineteenth century, Cayley, Spencer, Wenham, Mouillard, and many others were reported to have made feeble attempts to glide, but their failures were so complete that nothing of value resulted." ~ Wilbur Wright

In September 1909 Orville Wright was in Germany making demonstration flights at Tempelhof aerodrome. He paid a call to Lilienthal's widow and on behalf of himself and Wilbur paid tribute to Lilienthal for his influence in aviation and on their own initial experiments in 1899.


Next time you fly, remember Otto's sacrifice with a "Vielen Dank" for the gift of flight from this great pioneer.