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Octave Chanute, a successful railroad design engineer, designed and built a hang glider in 1896. Octave used the glider in his efforts to learn how to control a flying machine. The pioneering efforts of Chanute and other inquisitive men built up a mass of information on the problems and solutions of human flight that finally enabled the Wright Brothers to contrive and fly a powered aircraft in 1903.

The Chanute glider was very frail and offered no provision for pilot seating. The pilot hung by his armpits from the two parallel bars under the lower wing. His legs thus served as the craft’s landing gear. A short run into the wind blowing up the side of a hill would get the craft airborne, and once in flight, the pilot controlled the glider by shifting his weight.

Mainly, Chanute’s glider proved that the configuration was hard on the rider’s legs, uncomfortable, and only marginally controllable, but it was a step on the long, hard road to controlled powered flight. The Pratt truss construction employed by the Chanute Glider was later adopted by the Wright Brothers for use in their early gliders.

In 1959, EAA Chapter 29 decided to build a replica of the Chanute Hang Glider. Construction began in April of 1959 under the direction of project leader Rene Durenleau. The replica was built of wood and used varnished nylon (instead of silk) for the supporting and control surfaces. By early May of 1959, the project produced an exact, full scale replica of the glider.

The Chanute Hang Glider replica is suspended from the ceiling of the EAA AirVenture Museum above the Wright Flyer replica.

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