20 euro – The Dream of Flight
Series: Austria – Reaching for the Sky
Celebrating the story of manned flight, from the first fearless pioneers to the crowded skies of today, Reaching for the Sky makes four stopovers at the most important stages in the history of air travel. The series takes off in the shape of The Dream of Flight, which illustrates how the fantasy of flight eventually became reality. Since time immemorial, humans have dreamed of flying like a bird. In Greek mythology, Icarus famously used wings made of feathers and wax, but flew too close to the sun. In late 18th-century France, the Montgolfier brothers invented the balloon. Although they originally believed that it was smoke and not hot air that made the contraption rise, by 1783 they had managed to carry out the first flight carrying live beings – in this case a sheep, a duck and a rooster – in the presence of King Louis XVI. From Enlightenment France, fast forward to late 19th-century Prussia and Otto Lilienthal’s bird-like gliders, one of which features on the coin’s reverse, while a collage depicting Icarus, wearing one of Leonard da Vinci’s winged constructions, and the Montgolfier brothers’ famous balloon is depicted on its obverse. Known as the ‘flying man’, Lilienthal was the first person to make successful flights using gliders. In 1893, he flew for a distance of 250 metres, a record that remained unbeaten at the time of his death in a glider accident in August 1896. A true pioneer, Lilienthal positively influenced opinion about the practicality of flying machines.