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KRESS, Wilhelm

* 29. 7. 1836, St. Peterburg, Russia
† 24. 2. 1913, Vienna, Avstria

Constructor (aircraft)

K. was born in St. Petersburg to German parents and attended the lower classes of the German secondary modern school. Between 1850/57 he was trained as a piano maker and piano tuner. This was followed by a trip through different European cities.
In 1858 he arrived in Vienna for the first time and remained there for one year. When he returned to St. Petersburg in 1864, he initially began dealing with the problems of flying and constructed a free flying rotor and a model of flying machine powered by a propeller. However, the flight was not possible because the engine was too heavy.
In 1873 he saw the world exhibition in Vienna and settled there as well. In addition to practicing his profession, he constantly dealt with the problems of flying. In 1876 he made a model similar to helicopter (“Luftbicycle”) with the sail-propeller and two wings, which were powered by a rubber band. In the spring of 1877 he completed a larger model (“Aeroveloce”), which was also publicly presented. It consisted of a horizontal and a vertical rudder. His invention was patented in Germany, under the patent number 8706 on 19th July, 1879. He received the privilege of manufacturing it in Austria-Hungary. This was the first powered machine heavier than air, which was able to fly and land. In 1880 he published a booklet entitled Aeroveloce - dirigible flying machine. His next public presentation was held on 5th March in Lower Austria Arts and Crafts Association in Vienna.
Austrian Association of Engineers and Architects established the aviation technology group on 10th December 1880 and K. held several lectures there.
Between 1882 and 1897 plans were made for the project of “Electric water omnibus”. In 1885 he invented the “Cottage-Piano”, a kind of “piano with a diagonally set resonant bottom, oblique ratchet and strings, which were connected to resonant chambers”. It was the same size as an upright piano, yet had a full tone. The Bösendorfer Company began to manufacture this type of instruments, which proved to be comercially unsuccessful.
When in 1888 Victor Silberer organized an exhibition of aviation art in Prater near Vienna, K. was the only exhibitor that also flew with his models. Emperor Franz Joseph was very impressed with K’s models so he became his sponsor and patron. Since there was no corresponding five pound engine to produce enough horsepower at the time, K. tried his hand at inventing such engine. In 1889/91 he developed a rotary engine on paper. In 1891 followed the construction of the wing-flapping flying machine. He met great success on 15th December 1891, when he lectured in the great hall of the Austrian Association of Engineers and Architects and also presented his models of hang-gliders and helicopters. This was followed by the development of “Aeroneff” and “Libelle” helicopters.
In 1892 he started the project “Multiplan” or the hang-glider with several wings, which was similar to the later model, presented in Wienerwaldsee.
To gain the necessary skills for producing a large hang-glider K. in 1893/94 attended technical lectures held by Professor Johann von →Radinger at the Technical University in Vienna.
On 15th February, 1895 he applied for Austrian privilege for »Kaptivschraube« - a helicopter with two contra-rotating propellers – which was awarded on 1st August 1895. After that he tested the model with installed buoyancy device and, yet failed to receive orders for the helicopter from the military.
In the summer of 1896, during craft exhibition K. visited Berliner Otto Lilienthal, who presented him the mound from which he executed glider flights. K. continued to insist on his idea of motor flights.
Patent entitled »Motorschlittenboot«, patented by him on the 11th December, 1897 was able to move on water, ice and air. On 18th February 1898, K. presented his plans to build a large hang-glider to the public. K’s committee collected 40.000 crowns and as a result K. and his assistants created the world's first waterborne aeroplane, powered by gasoline in Tullnerbach, near Vienna. It was equipped with a large rudder to guide the aeroplane in all directions. The total weight was 670 pounds. After installing the heavy Daimler engine, his aircraft made the first successful attempt at the Wienerwaldsee. On 3rd October 1903 his plane was destroyed after being entangled with debris floating in the lake. The other hang-glider with several wings was completed the same year, but unfortunately K. ran out of money.
After the airship project called the »System K«, this aviation pioneer made a flying device with the rotating propeller in 1907. Device was to be completed by the Lohner company from Floridsdorf, Vienna, but it was not. In 1913 K. published a brochure entitled The development of the first hang-glider in Vienna and after a long illness soon died.

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