Horten Brothers - Biography - Early Lives

Early Lives

Between the World Wars, the Treaty of Versailles limited the construction of German military airplanes. In response, German military flying became semi-clandestine, taking the form of civil 'clubs' where students trained on gliders under the supervision of decommissioned World War I veterans. As teenagers, the Horten brothers became involved in such flying clubs.

This back-to-the-basics education, and an admiration of German avant-aircraft designer Alexander Lippisch, led the Hortens away from the dominant design trends of the 1920s and '30s, and toward experimenting with alternative airframes—building models and then filling their parents' house with full-sized wooden sailplanes. The first Horten glider flew in 1933, by which time both brothers were members of the Hitler Youth.

The Hortens' glider designs were extremely simple and aerodynamic, generally consisting of a huge, tailless albatross-wing with a tiny cocoon of a fuselage, in which the pilot lay prone. But the great advantage of the Horten designs was the extremely low parasitic drag of their airframes. They were 'slick' and scalable to high speeds.

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