Etrich-II Taube, built in 1910

Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
Imitating nature: Franz Xaver Wels designed a flying wing aircraft inspired by the seeds of a creeping plant. Equipped with a latticework fuselage it finally became a successful motorised aeroplane.

Following the fatal accident of the German aviation pioneer Otto Lilienthal, Igo Etrich (1879 - 1967) and his father wanted to design a motor-driven flying machine that would be as reliable as possible. In 1900/1901 they built a ramp-launched glider based on their own design ideas, but it failed. In 1903 they took on a young engineer by the name of Franz Xaver Wels (1873 - 1940) to study the literature. He focused extensively on shapes and structures inspired by nature and studied not just the wing shapes of birds, bats and insects among others. He was also particularly intrigued by the structure of the seed Zanonia macrocarpa, which grew on Java.

In 1905 he built a small Zanonia glider equipped with contra-rotating propellers and a 3.5 hp bicycle motor. It was however insufficiently powerful for ascent flight. On 2 October 1907 Franz Wels completed his maiden flight with the adapted manned glider and finally received a patent for the powered flying wing aircraft.

Following the rift between Etrich and Wels, it was Karl Illner (1877 - 1935) who achieved the first short flight by an Austrian motorised airplane with his fourth prototype, the Praterspatz [Prater sparrow], on 4 July 1909 in Wiener Neustadt. Illner had joined Etrich and Wels already back in 1906. As well as re-designing the glider Etrich and Illner began working on a motorised aeroplane complete with fuselage in the winter of 1906/07. In October 1909 they began developing the Taube, and its maiden flight was on 6 April 1910.

Military circles in particular soon began to show interest. The Taube type was introduced to the Imperial & Royal Aeronautical Department, and the aircraft was sold to Germany, Russia and China. In Austria, around 50 Taube aircraft were manufactured, among others by the Lohner company. The specimen on show at the Technisches Museum Wien was donated by Igo Etrich in 1914.

Inv.Nr. 1933

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