Historical information

Otto Lilienthal (1848-1896) from Berlin, Germany, is widely credited as being the first person to make repeated successful gliding flights. He was known for adopting a thorough scientific approach founded on observations of the flight of birds in relation to the problem of inventing a man carrying heavier than air machine that would fly. He developed and tested bird-like gliders controlled by weight shift by the pilot (a similar method to modern hang gliders). The pilot held on to the glider with his forearms resting in hoops mounted on the main structural beam connecting the wings. The weight shift was achieved by the pilot swinging his trunk and legs. In contrast, the pilot of a modern hang glider is suspended below the glider and, with the use of an A-frame, allows the whole body to be moved around to achieve control. The Lilienthal design apparently had a tendency to pitch down and a tailplane was added to mitigate this problem.

Lilienthal flew from hills in the Rhinow region and from a conical hill he built near Berlin. He made over 2000 flights. Importantly, for others seeking to progress manned flight at the time and also for the historical record, reports of Lilienthal’s flights (some with photographs) were published and Lilienthal detailed his experiences and corresponded with other flight pioneers. Lilienthal’s work became well known and influenced Orville and Wilbur Wright in their initial experiments with gliders in 1899 (although in their quest to design and fly an aeroplane they relied on new data created by wind tunnel testing).

The replica built by Bruce Hearn is of the 1893 Lilienthal glider. It is very similar to the “Normal-Segalapparat” (Normal Glider) for which patent protection was later granted a few years later.


The Lilienthal replica glider is an important addition to the AGM collection as it represents the beginning of successful gliding flight.

Physical description

Hang glider made of wood with wire bracing – yet to be covered with authentic cotton fabric.

Inscriptions & markings

The glider has a small plate with identification details including name of builder (Bruce Hearn)