The history of air transportation began in Germany with the work of F. Graf Zeppelin in 1887. The requirements of payload and range-traversing mountainous regions and the sea-seemed at the time only to be achievable by the rigid Zeppelin airship, the first of which the inventor built and tested in 1900. In 1909 Zeppelin founded the first airline company, DELAG, which transported 18,000 passengers in five years and covered 90,000 nautical miles.
German Otto Lilienthal's flight research culminated in 2,000 controlled gliding flights over distances of up to 750 feet from 1891 to 1896. He was one of the first aircraft manufacturers, selling a number of his Standard Gliders to customers in Austria, England, and Russia. His published findings helped motivate the Wright Brothers.
The technology of the "aero-engine"-first built for airships and then for airplanes-is largely based upon the development of the automotive "high rpm" four stroke gasoline engine.
The dedicated commercial transport aircraft was pioneered by another German, H. Junkers (1919) with the JUF13. Essential for its success was Junkers' development of an aircraft structure technology based upon heat-treated aluminum alloy (Dural, developed by a supplier in Germany). Beginning in 1917 he had gained manufacturing experience in delivering 230 "close air support aircraft" employing this technology. Junkers' concept of "internally braced thick wing" had been essential to the success of his concept.
The first "Jumbo-Transport aircraft" was demonstrated in 1929 by Dornier with his then giant flying boat "DoX," which carried 169 passengers during a special one-hour flight. In 1944 Dornier began production of the ultimate high-speed operational aircraft. "Do335" was powered by reciprocating engines reaching 745 kilometers per hour. Another German pioneer was Pabst von Ohain, a pioneer of air-breathing jet propulsion who first demonstrated the technology in flight in 1939.
The concept of the swept wing for the transonic flight regime was pioneered in Germany in 1936. The first experimental aircraft of 23° negative wing-sweep went into flight test in August 1944, while one with 35° positive sweep could not be taken beyond final assembly due to the termination of aircraft development in the country in 1945.
Aeronautics had first been extended into aerospace through the flight-trajectory, which was achieved by the Penemuende-A4 liquid-fuelled rocket (Werner von Braun) as of 1943.
With the advent of the jet-age, parachute airbrakes were pioneered by the FIST (Flight Institute of the technical University/Stuttgart) beginning in the mid-30s. They found global use, including on the Space Shuttle.
Since 1959 the aerospace industry in Germany has perhaps been the most active partner in successfully pursuing multinational programs, including a flight research program on controlled maneuvering flight beyond the stall limit with the X31 as test vehicle.
Provided to the AIAA for the sole purpose of its Evolution of Flight Campaign.