Lilienthal glider meets A380

125 years of aviation comes together in one image. Hamburg Finkenwerder Airport was the scene of a historic encounter between a pair of unique aircraft. A replica of the world's first series-built flying machine by Otto Lilienthal, built by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), met the largest passenger aircraft in history, the Airbus A380.

The Lilienthal glider was brought to Hamburg for a photo shoot, producing images that illustrate the evolution of the aviation pioneer's dream just 125 years after Otto Lilienthal first took to the skies. Lilienthal himself could never have envisaged that up to 853 passengers would one day be shuttled from one place to the next on board giants such as the A380, with its wingspan of almost 80 metres and weight of 569 tons. In contrast, Lilienthal's titchy Normalsegelapparat (the normal glider) had just 6.70 metres of wingspan and a weight of 20 kilograms.

DLR built a replica of the world's first series aircraft, which it then put through its paces in a series of wind tunnel tests. The intention was to honour the life's work of aviation pioneer Lilienthal, who 125 years ago became the first person to fulfil the dream of manned flight.

"It is staggering to see how many of Otto Lilienthal's ideas still hold true within modern aviation," said Prof. Rolf Henke, Member of the DLR Executive Board responsible for Aeronautics Research. “All modern aircraft are assessed based on criteria that Lilienthal defined – among them the polar curves that carry his name (Lilienthalpolare). Not only was he the first person to fly in a stable aircraft, he was also the first aviation scientist."

Tom Enders, CEO of the Airbus Group, said: "Since the Wright brothers, all manufacturers of aircraft have engineered their flying machines based on Otto Lilienthal's principle of 'heavier than air'. It was a long journey from the first flight attempts in 1891 to today's modern passenger jets. The Lilienthal glider and the A380 both exemplify the pioneering spirit that makes the aviation industry such a fascinating field of enterprise. We are proud of our predecessors and delighted that DLR has reconstructed this flying machine."

The replica of the Lilienthal glider will be on display at the ILA Berlin Air Show from 1 to 4 June 2016.


Jens Wucherpfennig
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Tel.: +49 551 709-2108
Fax: +49 551 709-12108

Heiko Stolzke
Manager Media Relations
Tel.: +49 40 7437-3016