Austrian Aviation Heritage: Etrich-II Taube – On the Wings of a Dove

It may be a small aviation collection at the Technical Museum Vienna (Technisches Museum Wien) but it includes pre-war and World War One aircraft that are highly significant to Austrian aviation history. The most important in the collection is a 1910 Etrich-II Taube (Dove) aircraft, that with its unique bird wing style design takes centre stage in the main atrium of the museum.

Etrich-II Taube (Dove) aircraft Technical Museum Vienna (Technisches Museum Wien) Austria
The Etrich-II Taube (Dove) aircraft sit high above in the main atrium of the Technical Museum Vienna (Technisches Museum Wien) – October 2015
Etrich-II Taube (Dove) aircraft Technical Museum Vienna (Technisches Museum Wien) Austria
The bird like and aptly named Etrich-II Taube (Dove) – Technical Museum Vienna (Technisches Museum Wien) October 2015
Etrich-II Taube (Dove) aircraft Technical Museum Vienna (Technisches Museum Wien) Austria
This Etrich-II Taube (Dove) dates back to 1910 – Technical Museum Vienna (Technisches Museum Wien) October 2015
Etrich-II Taube (Dove) aircraft Technical Museum Vienna (Technisches Museum Wien) Austria
Like a bird in flight – Etrich-II Taube (Dove) – Technical Museum Vienna (Technisches Museum Wien) October 2015

The Etrich-II Taube was designed by Igo Etrich (1879 – 1967) in Austria-Hungary in 1909 and first flew on April 25th, 1910. Like most early aircraft the Taube flight controls included wing warping for lateral control, rather than ailerons and the rear half of the stabilizer also warped for use as an elevator. The Taube aircraft on display was donated to the museum by the man himself, Igo Etrich in 1914. For such an early period in aviation history the Taube is almost a work of art!

Etrich-II Taube (Dove) aircraft Technical Museum Vienna (Technisches Museum Wien) Austria
The Etrich-II Taube (Dove) aircraft flight controls included wing warping for lateral control, rather than ailerons and the rear half of the stabilizer also warped for use as an elevator – Technical Museum Vienna (Technisches Museum Wien) October 2015
Etrich-II Taube (Dove) aircraft Technical Museum Vienna (Technisches Museum Wien) Austria
Flying by the seat of your pants 1910 style! Love the steering wheel! Technical Museum Vienna (Technisches Museum Wien) October 2015
Etrich-II Taube (Dove) aircraft Technical Museum Vienna (Technisches Museum Wien) Austria
The aesthetic quality if the Etrich-II Taube (Dove) is something to appreciate – Technical Museum Vienna (Technisches Museum Wien) October 2015
Etrich-II Taube (Dove) aircraft Technical Museum Vienna (Technisches Museum Wien) Austria
There is something about looking at an aircraft that was not initially designed with speed or military concerns but more to reflect the beauty of nature itself! Technical Museum Vienna (Technisches Museum Wien) October 2015

The wing design of the Etrich-II Taube (Dove) seems to have been inspired by the earlier glider work of German aviation pioneer and aeronautical engineer Otto Lilienthal, who in trying to emulate bird flight, went on to fly 18 different glider designs in conjunction with his brother Gustav, on 2,000 flights near Berlin between 1891 and his death in 1896 (he broke his back in a glider crash on August 9th, 1896 and sadly died in a Berlin hospital the very next day). Lilienthal also wrote the book, “Birdflight as the Basis of Aviation” in 1889 which went on to influence many aviation designers and enthusiasts.

Otto Lilienthal performing one of his gliding experiments circa 1895
Otto Lilienthal performing one of his gliding experiments circa 1895 (Photo Source: US Library of Congress)
Illustration of the flight of a white stork by Otto Lilienthal in Der Vogelflug als Grundlage der Fliegekunst published in 1889
Illustration of the flight of a white stork by Otto Lilienthal in Der Vogelflug als Grundlage der Fliegekunst published in 1889 (image via Wikipedia)

Igo Etrich purchased two of Lilienthal’s Storm flight model gliders in 1898 presumably to study and test them. He donated the sole surviving example to the Technisches Museum Wien in 1915, where it remains on display today. A fascinating tidbit of information is that its wings are covered with laundry and sheets!

1898 Lilienthal Storm flight model glider Technical Museum Vienna (Technisches Museum Wien)
1898 Lilienthal Storm flight model glider – Technical Museum Vienna (Technisches Museum Wien) October 2015
1898 Lilienthal Storm flight model glider Technical Museum Vienna (Technisches Museum Wien) Austria
1898 Lilienthal Storm flight model glider – the wings are covered in laundry and sheets! Technical Museum Vienna (Technisches Museum Wien) October 2015
1907 Etrich-Wels glider prototype, with Igo Etrich in the cockpit
1907 Etrich-Wels glider prototype, with Igo Etrich in the cockpit (Photo Source: Wikipedia)

Igo Etrich and his design team which included young engineer Franz Xaver Wels and later Karl Illner, built a number of early gliders themselves between 1900 and 1907 along with designs for powered flight aircraft. These included wing designs inspired not only by birds and bats as you would expect but also the seed Zanonia macrocarpa, which grow in Java and are known to fly long distances from their parent tree.

These early designs and flight experiments lead to the development of the powered Taube in 1909 by Etrich and Illner (Etrich and Wels seem to have had a rift in around 1907 and parted ways when Wels filed a patent for his own powered flying wing aircraft!). The inherent stability of the seed Zanonia macrocarpa ultimately was what helped form the design of the Taube wing.

Overall Taube production was around 246 aircraft between 1910 and 1918. It became one of the first pre World War One aircraft operated by the Austro-Hungarian Imperial and Royal Aviation Troops and was licence-built by Lohner-Werke, a luxury coachbuilder in Vienna (they produced 50 aircraft).

An Austro-Hungarian Imperial and Royal Aviation Troops Etrich-II Taube on a 1914 postcard
An Austro-Hungarian Imperial and Royal Aviation Troops Etrich-II Taube on a 1914 postcard (Photo Source: Wikipedia – uploaded by Takkk)

The Taube was also licence built in Germany by Rumpler Flugzeugwerke, a company founded in Berlin by Austrian engineer Edmund Rumpler. He was a crafty one though and apparently quickly changed the design slightly and renamed it from Etrich-Rumpler-Taube to Rumpler-Taube and stopped paying patent royalties to Igo Etrich, who later abandoned his patent and offered the design freely to any nation that wanted to take it up!

1911 Rumpler-Taube design
1911 Rumpler-Taube design (Image Source: Wikipedia)

Apart from Austria-Hungary, the primary Taube operator was the Deutsche Luftstreitkräfte / Imperial German Air Service and the type was also operated by a number of countries including China, Italy, Norway, Russia and Switzerland. During World War One the Taube was used in a number of combat roles including as a bomber but given its slow speed and poor maneuverability it was soon outclassed by more modern aircraft and withdrawn from frontline service in 1914. It was very stable in flight though which made it ideal for observation and training duties.

A German Rumpler-Taube ("A.54.") at Köln-Longerich in 1913/14
A German Rumpler-Taube (“A.54.”) at Köln-Longerich in 1913/14 (Photo Source: German Federal Archives)
Rumpler-Taube in flight
Rumpler-Taube in flight (Photo Source: Wikipedia)
A German Rumpler Taube over French positions in 1914
A German Rumpler Taube over French positions in 1914 (Photo Source: The National Geographic Magazine, Vol. XXXIII, No. 1, January, 1918, p. 99)

References:

Encyclopedia Britannica – Otto  Lilienthal

Monash University – Igo Etrich The ‘seed of an idea’

Technisches Museum Wien

Wikipedia – Etrich Taube

Wikipedia – Igo Etrich

Wikipedia – Otto Lilienthal

Wikipedia – Rumpler

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5 thoughts on “Austrian Aviation Heritage: Etrich-II Taube – On the Wings of a Dove

  1. Marvelous essay on this beautiful aircraft. I saw a replica in Seattle but had not known our appreciated its design or history until this post. The backstory on Otto Lilienthal’s influence as well as the Dove’s design team is spot in 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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