August 18th in German History: Karl Jatho Claims to have flown For the First Time

Karl Jatho - Wikipedia
Karl Jatho’s Biplane.

While the Wright Brothers are generally thought to have the first powered heavier-than-air flight, there are several other claimants to that achievement. One such man was Karl Jatho, a German inventor. He claimed to have made a powered flight on August 18th of 1903.

Jatho was born on February 3rd, 1873, and had a career as a public servant in Hanover. He developed a keen interest in air travel and soon began building prototype airplanes. Beginning in August of 1903 he claimed to have begun making a series of ever-longer flights. Whether his aircraft was controlled or not is a matter of some debate. A 1907 news article stated that it was, while a 1902 document says that the aircraft lacked a controlled mechanism. Jatho’s notes state that he made a flight of 60 meters months prior to the Wright Brother’s flights, although theirs were longer. However, Jatho failed to have his flight certified by witnesses until 1933. Further, subsequent attempts to fly using an exact replica of his plane had been prevented by adverse weather. Thus, his claims are not generally considered to be verified.

While the Wright Brothers almost certainly do deserve credit for being the first to make a powered and controlled flight, it is unfortunate that other pioneers of aviation are so forgotten. We are so focused on firsts that no one cares about those who were behind by just a few months. While the initial pioneers deserve a great deal of credit, their contemporaries are not so insignificant as to deserve being lost to time.

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