In five years between 1891 and 1896 Otto constructed seven gliders (five monoplanes and two biplanes) and made over 2000 ever-improving flights from hill sites at Stieglitz and in the Rhinow Mountains near Stöllen. He flew distances up to 400 m (1312 ft) and reached heights of 25 m (82 ft). He discovered and made use of up-currents of air for soaring flight.
His first means of launching was a spring-board, but this he soon abandoned in favour of hill launching. Some of his tests were made from the Rhinower Hills, near Stollen, but he also had constructed an artificial hill near Berlin.
In 1891 Lilienthal completed glider no.3, a monoplane glider constructed from peeled willow wands with a covering of waxed cotton. Its wings spanned 7 m (23 ft), with Lilienthal supporting himself within its centre section on parallel bars — literally a hang-glider — and controlling his flight path by shifting his body mass and thus altering the craft’s centre of gravity.
Otto Lilienthal Segelflugzeug N°3
Lilienthal’s first tentative hops were made with the aid of a springboard launcher, but soon flew from a specially constructed 15-m (49-ft) hill on the outskirts of Berlin.
Between 1891 and 1896 Lilienthal constructed five types of monoplane glider and two biplane types (1891 and 1892).
Lilienthal supported himself in his gliders by his arms, so that after a running take-off his hips and legs dangled below the aircraft, allowing him to swing his body in any desired direction to achieve stability and control. After 1893 he was achieving glides of 300-750 ft (90-230 m), with remarkable ease of control.
Otto Lilienthal Segelflugzeug N°11 (1894)
The 1894 monoplane hang glider was a single surface fabric covering over exposed framework. Wings fold for storage. Natural fabric finish; no sealant or paint of any kind.
In 1895 he was developing a type of body harness to work a rear elevator. The purpose of this was to give better control in rising or descending by increasing the effect of the occupant swing-ing his body forwards or backwards and thus altering the centre of gravity. Lilienthal also tested a glider which had flapping wing-tips, driven by a small carbonic acid gas engine. This system could never have equalled in efficiency the new petrol engines and propellers which were soon to come into being; but the great German inventor/ pilot was never to become aware of this, for he crashed in one of his gliders in the Rhinower Hills on 9 August 1896, and died in a Berlin clinic on the following day. His last words were 'Opfer mussen gebracht werden' ('Sacrifices must be made').
In 1895 produced his thirteenth design, a biplane. On the evening of 9 August 1896, Otto was at Stöllen testing a new kind of head--movement control arrangement when a sudden gust upturned his No. 11 monoplane glider and he crashed heavily from 15 m (49 ft) breaking his spine. He died the next day.
Otto Lilienthal (1848-1896) made approxi-mately 2,500 successful glides in 1893-96, mostly in monoplane 'hang-gliders' types, in which he flew distances of up to 985 ft (300 m).
1893 monoplane glider
Wing span: 22 ft 11.5 in (7.00 m)
Wing area: 150.7 sq ft (14.0 sq.m)
Wing chord (max): 8 ft 21 in (2.50 m)
Length: 16 ft 4.75 in (5.00 m)
Weight without pilot: 44 lb (20 kg)
Accommodation: Crew of 1.
Wingspan: 7.9 m (26 ft)
Length: 4.2 m (13 ft 9 in)
Height: 1.5 m (5 ft)
Weight: 20 kg (44 lb)
Fabric Covering: Cotton-twill