The biplanes constructed by Lilienthal and the Wright brothers fly together for the first time

A meeting of the pioneers of aviation

Replica of Otto Lilienthal’s ‘Big Biplane’ before take-off Image: DLR

For the first time, replicas of two of the most influential aircraft from the early days of aviation have flown together. Between 14 and 16 December 2019, Otto Lilienthal's 'Big Biplane' from 1895 and the Wright glider from 1902 were together during a demonstration at Kitty Hawk in the USA.

Otto Lilienthal is considered to be the first human aviator, while in 1903 the Wright brothers made the first powered flight at Kitty Hawk. "It is pleasing to see replicas of both pioneers together," said Rolf Henke, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Executive Board member responsible for aeronautics research. "Lilienthal's achievements were used by virtually all subsequent aviation pioneers, including the Wright brothers." An employee at DLR Göttingen, Markus Raffel, had already made flights in California at the end of July with the historically correct replica of the world's first biplane from Lilienthal. Raffel was building on the scientific research that DLR had conducted in wind tunnels, among other things, to mark the 125th anniversary of the first human flight in 2016 by constructing a replica of Lilienthal's monoplane.

The recent flights took place in the sand dunes of the Jockey's Ridge State Park. As the slope of the dunes is not as steep as it was in the past, the gliders were pulled into the air using towlines. The Lilienthal glider was flown by the American hang glider pilot Andrew Beem (Windsports, Los Angeles), and the Wright glider by Billy Vaughn (Kitty Hawk Kites).

Jens Wucherpfennig
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Corporate Communications, Göttingen and Hannover
Public Affairs and Communications
Telephone: +49 551 709-2108