Mercedes-Benz Museum Mythos 1 hall

August 1888: World’s first engine-driven flight with a combustion engine

The first engine-driven flight with a Daimler single-cylinder engine 125 years ago

  • Wölfert’s airship used a single-cylinder Daimler engine for its first flight in 1888
  • Gottlieb Daimler’s vision of motorising vehicles on land, on water and in the air became reality
  • Combustion engines established themselves as a drive system for aircraft during the ensuing period

One of mankind’s oldest dreams came true on 10 August 1888: Wölfert’s motorised airship successfully completed the world’s first engine-driven flight with a combustion engine. The flying machine belonging to the Leipzig-based bookseller Dr Friedrich Hermann Wölfert, powered by a single-cylinder Daimler engine, flew four kilometres from the factory yard of the Daimler Motor Company (Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft) at the Seelberg in Cannstatt to Kornwestheim. Thus Gottlieb Daimler’s vision of motorising vehicles on land, on water and in the air became reality.

Authentic reconstruction of the gondola on Wölfert's motorised airship with original Daimler engine on exhibition at the Mercedes-Benz Museum

Authentic reconstruction of the gondola on Wölfert’s motorised airship with original Daimler engine on exhibition at the Mercedes-Benz Museum

At 9.00 a.m. on 10 August 1888, a new era of aeronautics began in the factory yard of the Daimler Motor Company (DMC) in Cannstatt: an airship slowly lifted up above the company premises and flew off with an audibly clattering four-stroke Daimler engine in a north-westerly direction. It was the first successful engine-driven flight in history with a combustion engine as a drive for the propeller.

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