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The aeroplane models of Lilienthal

Lilienthal's manned aircraft were experimental devices for him. They were changed and altered during the course of his flight experiments. We know of nine different glider models from photos. Ideas and construction plans exist for other gliders. Only samples or parts of the 'Normal Glider' and the 'Storm Wing Model' have been preserved until today.

The book "Die Flugzeuge von Otto Lilienthal. Technik - Dokumentation - Rekonstruktion"contains all known sources and reconstruction plans of the Lilienthal aircrafts.


Earlier aeroplane models

Lilienthal's first aircraft are not documented by photographs.
Concept-studies and various model drawings exist. Probably several flying machines of differing sizes were built. They were used to conduct various wind experiments and jumps (from a ramp and from a standing position).

original drawing

wing span: 14 to 36 ft.
wing area: 28 to 107 sq.ft.

The attempt at a 1/5 scale replica of the glider "Seagull" from 1889 is on display in the museum.



Derwitzer Glider 1891

This is the first successful manned aircraft in the world, it covered flight distances of up to about 80 feet near Derwitz/Krielow in Brandenburg. During this series of flight experiments, Lilienthal reduced the glider's wingspan.

original photo



wing span:
about 23 ft.

about 86 sq.ft.

wing curvature:
1/10 of length

max. length of wing: 5.6 ft.

length of glider: 12.8 ft.

weight: 18 kg





Original replica according to descriptions and photographs (S.Nitsch).

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Südende-Glider 1892

Lilienthal described it as a "gliding apparatus built over a framework". It is an aerodynamically sophisticated construction with fabric covering both sides of the wings. It flew up to a distance of 90 yards (from a launching height of 30 feet). From Lilienthal's papers we know the probable existence of another glider model using a similar construction but in a different size.

original photo

wing span: 31 ft.

wing area: 158 sq.ft.

wing curvature 1/20 of length

max. wing length: 8.2 ft.

length of glider: 3.3 ft.

weight: 24 kg


Replica of the Südende-Glider in the museum (S.Nitsch)

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Maihöhe-Rhinow-Glider 1893

Named by Lilienthal: "convertible flight apparatus with 14 qm [150 sq. ft.] wing surface" and "Modell 93". This is the first glider of the new, convertible bat-like construction. Collapsed, the glider measures 6.6 x 10.5 x 1.6 feet.
The wing profile (air foil shape) could be changed by inserting different ribs or "profile laths". This construction is legally protected with a patent. It is the basis of the later named "Normalapparat" (normal glider). At the top of the hill "Maihöhe" he built a 13-foot-tall shed as a launching ramp. Near by Stölln/Rhinow (Brandenburg) Lilienthal made flights covering 800 feet from a 200-foot-high hill.

replica, museum



wing span: 22 or 23 ft.

wing area: 150 sq.ft.

max. length of wing: 8.2 ft.

length of glider: 14.3 ft.

wight: 20 kg


Replica by S. Nitsch

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Small Wing-flapping Machine 1893-96

Building on his reliable glider design, Lilienthal attempted to add wing-flapping for motion power. Both muscle-power propulsion and motor-power propulsion were planned. In 1894 the first carbonic acid engine was ready for use. The results from the tests of the wing-flapping machine were not encouraging at first. Nevertheless, Lilienthal continued with his attempts to imitate the wing flapping of birds.

original photo

wing span: 22 ft.

wing area: 129 sq.ft.

max. length of wing: 8.2 ft.

weight of engine: 5.5 kg
(approximately 10 kg including CO2-cylinder)

Replica with Motor:
S. Nitsch

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"Normal Gliders" from 1894 onwards

The design of the "Normal Glider" (Normalapparate) evolved from the "Model Stölln". There are existing drawings for two of the first gliders sold: the draft for "Seiler's glider" and for the "Modell Lambert".
We know that at least nine people bought the normal glider. But copies of 1893 gliders were also sold. Four original "Normal Gliders" are preserved in museums (London, Moscow, Munich (fragment) and Washington). A bow frame or "Prellbügel" was used to reduce the impact in the event of a crash. Later, the "Normal Glider" was refined into a biplane.

original photo

wing span: 22 to 23 ft.     wing area: 140 to 146 sq.ft.     max length of wing: 7.9/8.2 ft.
length of glider: 16.1 to 17.4 ft.      weight: about 20 kg

The museum has reproductions of the "Normal Glider" (one by Richter in 1925), and several by Nitsch, who also built the accurate 1/5-scale replica of the "Model Stölln".

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Sturmflügel-Modell (Storm Wing Model) 1894

This glider was built with the same principles of construction as the "normal glider". The wings are reduced in size in order to withstand stronger wind. The glider was later refined into a small biplane. The original can be seen in the Technical Museum in Vienna.

replica , ICAO



wing span: 20 ft.

wing area: 104 sq.ft.

length of wing: 6.6 ft.

length of glider: 14.8 ft.


replica (J. Jung)
on loan to ICAO, Montreal
(Int. Civ. Aviation Org.)
another replica: I. Legat




"Vorflügelapparat" 1895

Lilienthal called this big monoplane a "device for experiments". Different control mechanisms were tested on this monoplane glider. The conspicuous front wing tip controller (Vorflügel) was intended to prevent crashes, which happened frequently in the case of a negative angle of incidence. A wing warping control and turnable drag surfaces were also tested.

replica museum

wing span: 29 ft.   wing area: 204 sq.ft.   max. length of wing: 9.8 ft.  length of glider: 18.4 ft.

Replica with all known control mechanisms: S. Nitsch

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Small biplane 1895

The Small Biplane was based on the "Sturmflügel-Modell". Lilienthal described his intension by saying: "The biplane design has the same lifting capacity of a single wing with twice the span, but the shorter span is more responsive to changes in the center of gravity." The results were convincing. The original lower wing is preserved in Vienna. The upper wing was preserved in Munich until 1945.

original photo

wing span: 19.7 / 17.1 ft.     wing area: 104 / 105 sq.ft.
max. length of wing: 7.2 / 6.9 ft.     length of glider: 15.7 ft.

Replicas: J. Jung (full scale) snd S. Nitsch (1/5 scale)

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large biplane 1895

The "Normal Glider" was provided with a second wing because of the outstanding flying performance and controllability of the small biplane.

original photo


wing span: 21.6 / 20.7 ft.

wing area: 146 / 112 sq.ft.

max. length of wing: 7.5 / 7.5 ft.

length of glider: 16.1 ft.

Replica (S. Nitsch)

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large Wing-flapping machine 1896

The big wing flapping machine was based on the wing-flapping machine of 1893, and was later outfitted with an engine. We assume the powered glider was completed but not tested. It had been shown in 1906 and 1907 on exhibitions, but it is not preserved today.

replica museum

wingspan: 27.9 ft.   wing area: 188 sq.ft.   max. length of wing: 8.2 ft.  length of glider: 17.4 ft.

1/5 scale replica in the museum



Other designs and constructions

In addition to the detailed replicas, there are sketches, designs and other source materials which cannot be associated with known gliders. A design for a large monoplane that survives today as a drawing was probably never built. There are sketches of the muscle-powered mechanisms of wing flapping and a helicopter. The designs of the collapsible wing (bat-principle) and a system of two wings behind each other (Tandem wings) were considered and used later by several other aviators.

model museumAt the time of Lilienthal's death, the "Gelenkflügelapparat" (Glider with jointed Wings), which would allow a mechanical shift in the center of gravity for the pilot, was almost ready for test flights. However, little is known about the details of its construction. The museum has a 1/5 scale model of Lilienthal's last design, which has completely different construction from earlier machines.

wing span: 30 ft.     area: 215 sq.ft.     length of wing : 9.2 ft.

The project of the "Kippflügel-Schlagapparat" (Tilt Stroke Wing Glider) was initially estimated to be from the period before 1893 because of its different form. It is now thought to be from 1896. We assume that this third wing flapping machine was never built.