Jacob Christian Hansen Ellehammer (1871-1946)

ellehammer_200.jpg Jacob Christian Hansen Ellehammer

Born at Bakkebolle, Denmark, June 14, 1871, Jacob Christian Ellehammer was apprenticed as a youth to a watchmaker. He developed his skills in miniature devices and later taught himself the principles of electricity and the internal combustion engine.

His early commercial success with a motorcycle design permitted him to indulge his pursuit of powered flight.

His studies of birds enabled him to calculate the horsepower required to fly and to translate these calculations into his own design of a radial engine.

Incredibly, Ellehammer continued to experiment unaware of the Wright's first flight in December of 1903, and, on September 12, 1906 became the first European to fly an airplane.

His feat was accomplished on the tiny island of Lindholm and consisted of a flight of 421 meters at an altitude of 50 centimeters. The rapid aviation success of other Europeans led Ellehammer to shift his focus to vertical flight craft and in 1912 he succeeded in making a helicopter rise from the ground.

An unfortunate accident to one of his aircraft in 1916 caused him to halt his aviation experiments until 1930 when his earlier interest was reawakened. He thereafter continued to aid in the development of Danish aviation until his death in 1946.

Jacob Christian Ellehammer's life exemplified the inquisitiveness of the inventor and the daring and courage of the pioneer. His practical contributions opened the way for European aviation development.

J. C. H. Ellehammer, Denmark

September 12, 1906 : Ellehammer, who had begun full-sized experiments in 1905 at Lindholm, Denmark, made his first flight of 42m. in his monoplane.

Between that date and 1908 he made some 200 flights, of which the longest was 175m. on January 14, 1908, in a tractor triplane powered by his own engine of some 36 h.p.

His 1906 machine had but nine h.p. His second machine was a baby tractor of 18 h.p., with the rear elevator automatically connected to the engine and wings with variable angle of incidence. This got off temporarily on various occasions.

On February 13, 1908, he covered 300m., and began curves. In June 1908, he made short hops, up to 100m., in Kiel where he won 5,000 marks in the presence of Prince Henry of Prussia for a flight lasting 11 secs. He was not prominent after this date.



Jakob Ellehammer's flight, September 12, 1906


Jakob Ellehammer, aeroplane and crew, 1906


Stamp issue celebrating the flight of September 12, 1906


Kite experiments to define the 'upper sail'


Jakob Ellehammer, triplane, 1907


Jakob Ellehammer's aeroplane, today

photo: Soren Madsen


Jakob Ellehammer, Helicopter, 1908

photo: Copternews

Further reading

AerObscure : J.C.H. Ellehammer

Ellehammer's Drachen Tests

Ellehammer's Laboratorium

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