9 August 1896: Pioneering aviator Karl Wilhelm Otto Lilienthal was fatally injured when his glider stalled on his fourth flight of the day.
Flying at the Rhinow Hills, near Stölln in what is now northern Germany, he had been gliding as far as 820 feet (250 meters). The weather was windy. As he sailed off the slope, his glider suddenly pitched up. Lilienthal tried to correct the attitude by swinging back and fourth, but he had lost lift and the glider fell about 50 feet (15 meters) to the ground.
Seriously injured, he was taken to a doctor who determined that he had fractured the third cervical vertebra. He was then transported by train to Berlin where a very successful surgeon, Professor Ernst von Bergman, had a clinic.
Lilienthal died about 36 hours after his injury, 10 August 1896. Among his last words were, “Sacrifices must be made.”
His discoveries in controlled flight inspired the Wright Brothers to pursue aviation. He is considered to be one of the most influential of the early pioneers of flight, and is known as The Father of Flight.
© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes