15 Thoughts on Flight from Otto Lilienthal (1848-1896)

  1. All flight is based upon producing air pressure, all flight energy consists in overcoming air pressure.
  2. The contrivances which are necessary to counteract the wind effects can only be understood by actual practice in the wind.
  3. The maintenance of equilibrium in forward flight is a matter of practice, and can only be learned by repeated personal experiment.
  4. The sailing flight of birds is the only form of flight which is carried on for some length of time without the expenditure of power.
  5. Actual practice in individual flight presents the best prospects for developing our capacity until it leads to perfected free flight.
  6. Gradual development of flight should begin with the simplest apparatus and movements, and without time complication of dynamic means.
  7. The supporting powers of time air and of the wind depend on the shape of the surfaces used, and the best forms can only be evolved by free flight through the air.
  8. Experience alone can teach us the best forms of construction for sailing apparatus in order that they may be of sufficient strength, very light, and most easily managed.
  9. The increasing size of the apparatus makes the construction more difficult in securing lightness in the machine; therefore the building of small apparatus is to be recommended.
  10. Artificial flight may be defined as that form of aviation in which a man flies at will in any direction, by means of an apparatus attached to his body, the use of which requires the dexterity of the user.
  11. The difficulty of rising into the air increases rapidly with the size of the apparatus. The uplifting of a single person, therefore, is more easily attained than that of a large flying machine loaded with several persons.
  12. By practice and experience a man can (if the wind be of the right strength) imitate the complete sailing flight of birds by availing himself of the slight upward trend of some winds, by performing circling sweeps, and by allowing the air to carry him.
  13. Artificial flight may be defined as that form of aviation in which a man flies at will in any direction by means of an apparatus attached to his body, the use of which requires personal skill. Artificial flight by a single individual is the proper beginning for all species of artificial flight, as the necessary conditions can most easily be fulfilled when man flies individually.
  14. I, too, have made it a lifelong task of mine to add a cultural element to my work, which should result in uniting countries and reconciling their people. Our experience of today’s civilisation suffers from the fact that it only happens on the surface of the earth. We have invented barricades between our countries, custom regulations and constraints and complicated traffic laws and these are only possible because we are not in control of the ‘kingdom of the air’, and not as ‘free as a bird’.
  15. Numerous technicians in every state are doing their utmost to achieve the dream of free, unlimited flight and it is precisely here where changes can be made which would have a radical effect on our whole way of life. The borders between countries would lose their significance, because they could not be closed off from each other. Linguistic differences would disappear, as human mobility increased. National defence would cease to devour the best resources of nations as it would become impossible in itself. And the necessity of resolving disagreements among nations in some other way than by bloody battles would, in its turn, lead us to eternal peace.

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