This Quirky Contraption Lifted 19th-Century Pilots Into the Air for a Short, Exhilarating Glide

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A rare Lilienthal glider has been preserved, Via Smithsonian

To fly a Lilienthal glider, a pilot would grab hold of a handle bar attached to the wings and take off from the top of a hill, soaring for a short distance with feet dangling. Pilots would shift their body weight to steer the craft—a technique still used to fly hang gliders of today. In a smooth flight, the Lilienthal glider would soar for a few hundred feet and then settle to the ground. “The spectacle of a man supported on huge white wings, moving high above you at race horse speed, combined with the weird hum of the wind through the cords of the machine, produces an impression never to be forgotten,” reported one enthusiastic eyewitness of the time.

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