The History of Sailplanes
Antiquity Sailplanes History
The History of Gliders began with man's eternal quest to defy gravity and ascend to the skies. In fact, the first record of man's attempt to fly goes way, way back -- to around 400 BC China. Although no one knows who actually invented the now ubiquitous kite, lore has it that the wind blew off the hat of a Chinese farmer. To prevent this from reoccurring, he tied a string to hold onto it. Perhaps he lost hold of it, because when the next gust of wind blew, the hat became airborne. This seemingly ordinary inconvenience was the first record of a heavier-than-air device making it to the skies. Its progress continued to evolve.
Centuries and centuries later, after many successful and unsuccessful attempts by inventors around the world, brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright devised the first truly successful motorized fixed-wing airplane. They flew the "Wright Flyer" at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina on December 17, 1903, for 12 seconds, traveling 120 feet. Subsequent flights on that same day lasted longer and went further, with the final flight traveling 852 feet in 59 seconds. Modern Glider and aviation was finally born. In the past, sailplanes and gliders could only travel a few hundred feet but, with the advent of advanced aeronautics and optimum weather conditions, they can now fly over 600 miles.
During the Pre-19th Century flight innovation and experimenting
was really "taking off.."
Glider use during wartime
Although airplanes were used during World War I, Sailplanes didn't get into real action until World War II when, on May 10, 1940, Germany employed one Glider to carry 10 soldiers to Fort Eben-Emael in Belgium. This glider attack against Allied forces was a success; however, Great Britain and the United States took note and a year later, they had successful sailplane programs of their own. They used gliders to transport troops and cargo weighing from 3,000 to almost 11,000 pounds. Today the military use of sailplanes is limited to the United States Air Force, which uses them to teach cadets the basics of aeronautics.
Glider use during peacetime
After the Wright brothers' historical glider success, the sport of gliding caught on. The Aero Club of America on Long Island, New York sponsored the first American glider meet in 1906. Early uses of gliders and sailplanes for sports and recreation continued into the 1920's, when the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I, prohibited Germans from using motorized aircraft. The first world Sailplane championship was held in Wasserkuppe, Germany in 1937.
Whether you are an accomplished pilot or not, sailplane rides continue to be unique and exciting experiences. Where else can you get an adrenalin rush and then feel totally at peace? In today's harried and hurried world, gliders and sailplanes continue to be the ultimate feel-good adventure.
The History of the Sailplane's metamorphosis following technology's lead in later years integrates stronger, faster, lighter materials into its wings and fuselage enabling a person to glide higher in the sky for longer distances.