More Than a Century Later, Lilienthal and Wright Gliders Fly Together for the First Time at Kitty Hawk

More Than a Century Later, Lilienthal and Wright Gliders Fly Together for the First Time at Kitty Hawk

Reproductions of two of history’s most famous aircraft share the sky in North Carolina.

1. KHKFounderJohnHarrisFlyingLilienthal.jpg
Kitty Hawk Kites founder John Harris flying the Lilienthal glider in December 2019. (Paul Glenshaw)

Their inventors could never have imagined it, yet there the two machines were: reproductions of the Wright brothers’ 1902 glider and an 1895 Otto Lilienthal glider, side by side on the crest of a giant sand dune, pointed into the wind, and ready to launch.

The American aviation pioneers and their German predecessor never met, much less flew together. When the Wrights first launched their original glider 117 years ago, Lilienthal had been dead for six years. But on a beautiful December afternoon at Jockey’s Ridge on the Outer Banks of North Carolina in 2019, a determined German aerospace engineer and a bi-coastal group of American hang glider pilots made the historically impossible happen.