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Lilienthal was born in Anklam, Germany, in 1848. He began experimenting with flight when he was thirteen when he and his brothers made a set of wings, strapped them to his body, and tried to fly. During his lifetime, he made more than 2,500 successful glider flights. He built his first glider in 1891, and his so call "normal" glider was first constructed in 1894. His early gliders were monoplanes with cambered wings and fixed tail plane. In all, he built eighteen designs. Fifteen were monoplanes and three were biplanes.
To fly most of his gliders, the pilot hung from his craft with his head and shoulders sticking up above the wings with his body and legs hanging below. It was by shifting his weight, by swinging his hips and legs forward or back, or from side to side, that the pilot achieved some degree of control. This was the major shortcoming of his designs. The pilot had to react to the movements of the craft rather than directing or initiating them, which required strength and quick reflexes.
It was his inability to control a glider that proved fatal. When on the 9th August 1896 Lilienthal was killed, when he stalled and crashed to the ground while gliding. He broke his spine, and he died a day later in a Berlin hospital.
However, In 1963 John Dickenson from Australia came up with a weight shift control by using a combination of a harness that supported his whole weight and allowed him to move his body weight while holding onto an ‘A’ frame in front of him to control the direction of the glider. This idea and device has since been used by all so called Modern Flex Wing Hang Glider that have been built around the world todate.