The History of Gliding


I'm no scoller however I'm interested in gliding so I've commpiled some notes and liks to web sites.about people who have had something to do will gliding over the years. If you no more than me please email me and put the record strate.

Around 400 BC - Flight in China

The discovery of the kite that could fly in the air by the Chinese started humans thinking about flying. Kites were used by the Chinese in religious ceremonies. They built many colorful kites for fun, also. More sophisticated kites were used to test weather conditions.

The Da Vinci Glider ca 1500

Sir George Cayley 1773 - 1857

The first to conceptualize the practical airplane and then to demonstrate it in actual flight was an English country gentleman, Sir George Cayley. Born in Yorkshire in 1773 to a moderately prosperous family, Cayley was largely privately tutored. He had wide-ranging interests across the sciences, including civil engineering, hydraulics, acoustics and agriculture. Cayley began his studies of flight in 1792, when he built a small toy helicopter based loosely on a previous French design. In 1799 he recognized that four forces would act on an airplane: lift, thrust, drag and gravity. The challenge, he wrote, was "to make a surface support a given weight by the application of power to the resistance of the air." This insight constituted a major breakthrough; he also analyzed the work of others, making several important corrections to previous assumptions about flight and the resistance of the air to a solid moving through it.

On his Brompton Hall estate, Cayley blended his theoretical studies with actual experimentation, using a "whirling arm" test rig (a weight-driven rotating rod with an experimental wing shape on its end, a predecessor of the modern wind tunnel), and both model and full-size gliders. Indeed, he was the first great flight researcher in aviation history. Cayley's whirling arm testing revealed the benefits of a cambered (curved) wing, showing that it had greater lifting properties than a purely flat surface. In 1804, he followed these ground tests by building a small model having a kite-like wing, adjustable cruciform tail surfaces, and a balancing weight that could be moved back and forth along the fuselage (a long wooden dowel) to vary the location of the center of gravity.

This model performed quite well. Encouraged, Cayley built a larger glider and, in 1809, flew a small boy of about age 10 in it over a few yards. For many years he refrained from further human flight. Then, in 1849, he built a larger glider and flew another anonymous child. Finally, in 1853, he flew his coachman across a small valley. While the coachman's identity is uncertain (possibly he was named John Appleby), his reaction is not: "Please, Sir George," he said after landing, "I wish to give notice. I was hired to drive, and not to fly!"

Cayley's interest in flight was universal, and included balloons, airships, helicopters and airplanes. He even studied convertiplanes that could take off like a helicopter and then fly like a conventional airplane. Additionally, he did significant work on the development of streamlined artillery shells (as had da Vinci previously). His text On Aerial Navigation (1809), which set forth in detail the requirements for a successful flying machine, constitutes one of the most important works in the history of aviation. He undertook pioneering studies in aerodynamics and streamlining, and, in non-aviation-related work, improved the acoustics of Covent Garden, founded the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and undertook design of tracked vehicles.

After a full life, Cayley died in 1857, age 84. Subsequent pioneers recognized their debt to this remarkable Yorkshire baronet. Of him, Orville Wright wrote, "Cayley was a remarkable man. He knew more of the principles of aeronautics than any of his predecessors, and as much as any that followed him up to the end of the 19th century. His published work is remarkably free from error and was a most important contribution to the science."

Jean Marie Le Bris1817 - 1872

Le Bris built a glider-plane, inspired by the shape of the Albatross bird. Named L'Albatros artificiel ("The artificial Albatross"), he managed to fly on the beach of Sainte-Anne-la-Palud (Finistère), by being pulled by a running horse, face to the wind. He thus flew higher than his point of departure, a first for heavier-than-air flying machines, reportedly to a height of 100 metres (300 ft), for a distance of 200 metres (600 ft).


Built and flew on of the first gliders.

Octave Chanute

this Chicago engineer was the 'elder statesman' of aeronautical experiments in 1900. His glider experiments at Miller Beach in 1896 produced the most influential and significant glider of the pre-Wright era.

Not until 1906 did anyone else fly in an airplane. In that year short hops were made by a Romanian, Trajan Vuia (1872-1950), living in Paris, and by Jacob Christian Ellehammer (1871-1946), in Denmark. The first officially witnessed flight in Europe was made in France, by Alberto Santos-Dumont, of Brazil. His longest flight, on Nov. 12, 1906, covered a distance of about 220 m (722 ft) in 22.5 sec.

Wilbur and Orville Wright 1907

the two brothers developed the first effective powered airplane.

Mordern Gliding

By 1906 the sport of gliding was progressing rapidly. An American glider meet was sponsored by the Aero Club of America on Long Island, NY. By 1911 Orville Wright had set a world duration record of flying his motorless craft for 9:45 minutes.

By 1920 the sport of soaring was coming into its own. Glider design was spurred on by developments in Germany were the World War I treaty of Versailles banned flying power aircraft. New forms of lift were discovered that made it possible to gain altitude and travel distances using these previously unknown atmospheric resources. In 1921 Dr. Wolfgang Klemperer broke the Wright Brothers 1911 soaring duration record with a flight of 13 minutes using ridge lift. In 1928 Austrian Robert Kronfeld proved that thermal lift could be used by a sailplane to gain altitude by making a short out and return flight. In 1937 the first World Championships were held at the Wasserkuppe in Germany.


First world soaring duration record: 9:45 min by Orville Wright, Kitty Hawk NC. Accomplished using ridge lift created by the sand dunes near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, USA.


Soaring becomes organized sport at Wasserkuppe, Germany as the World War I Versailles treaty outlaws flying power aircraft in Germany.


Phase 1 – Discovery: Sources of life and soaring flight discovered.


Dr. Wolfgang Klemperer breaks the Wright Brothers 1911 soaring record with a 13 minute flight in Germany. Both flights used ridge lift.


Austrian Robert Kronfeld proved that thermal lift could be used by a sailplane to gain altitude by making a short out and return flight.


Development: Aero towing becomes popular, sailplanes develop better performance, the three forms of lift are becoming well known, and soaring distances reach over 300 miles.


Wave lift was discovered by Wolf Hirth and one of his students in 1933 in Germany.


World Duration Record in a single place sailplane, THE “NIGHTHAWK,” in the USA 22 HOURS, flown by Lt WILLIAM Cocke near Honolulu, Hawaii in December, 1931.


Heini Dittmar wins the first recognized World Soaring Championships flying the Sao Paulo at the Wasserkuppe in Germany. Wave flights to high altitudes are accomplished.


US Distance Record flown in the USA was 263 miles, flown by Woody Brown in Jun 1939 with a flight from Wichita Falls, TX to Wichita KS. The World Distance Record was 465 miles flown by Ms. Klepikova in July 1939 in the USSR. US Altitude Record in a single place sailplane reached 17,265 ft by Bob Stanley in July 1939.


The prototype of the first composite sailplane PHOENIX had its first flight in 1957 in Germany.


Other History of aviation web sites A great pottered history of flight.

Life Insurance for Glider Pilots


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