Gliding: History and Movies

Willem Hendrik Schukking, pioneer of aviation.

On Tuesday July 28 of the year 1908 second lieutenant of the Royal Dutch Engineering Corps Willem Hendrik Schukking made the first flights in the Netherlands with an apparatus heavier than air. The location of the flights was De Stompert, a hill in the neighbourhood of Soesterberg in the middle of the country. Schukking first used the Chanute method of flight, hanging under the glider. The longest distance covered was about 15 meters. After that he used the Wright method, lying in the glider, which was lifted by two soldiers at the end of the wings. As stated in an article in the Orgaan van de NVvL in September 1908, the soldiers when running down the hill did not notice the weight of the plane any longer. Later Schukking made one or more flights using a small carriage on rails down the hill. Schukking concluded that the hill was not steep enough for longer flights, the wind was too variable and that the plane did not meet the necessary standards. Wilbur Wright agreed with these conclusions in a letter to Schukking.

Willem Hendrik Schukking was one of the first members of the Nederlandsche Vereeniging voor Luchtvaart, the predecessor of the present Royal Netherlands Aeronautical Association (KNVvL).

In 1908 Schukking was passenger on the second balloon ride of the balloon Rotterdam, which was donated to the new organization NVvL. In this article about the flight he gave an enthusiastic account of the flight above the clouds.

In 1911 Schukking was the author of an article in the Military Spectator about the possible use of the flying machine for military purposes. This article was published shortly before an official commission by the Dutch Defence Ministry published its report on the future of aviation in the army. In this report it was advised to pay attention to the balloon, the dirigible balloon and also the flying machine. The future would make clear which technique would be the best. But in the parliament it was decided that the organization to be formed should only pay attention to the airplane, the same which was reached by Schukking on the base of his thorough studies of aviation in Europe, especially in France and other countries. In July 1913 the Proefafdeling (test organization) was formed in the army. Now it is considered to be the birthday of the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

Willem Schukking continued his career within the Dutch Engineering Corps, which he left after the second world war in the rank of colonel. Apart from this he was a founding member of the Menno van Coehoorn Foundation, named after the famous seventeen century architect of many fortifications in the low countries.

Willem Schukking is the co-author of many books about fortifications and military history. His main work is the preparation of the writing of Simon Stevin, the famous 17th century engineer from Belgian origin on military subjects, later on published as volume IV of the Principal Works of Simon Stevin, a publication of Sciences in the Netherlands.

Willem Hendrik Schukking died in 1967.


On July 28 in 2009 the grandchildren of Willem Hendrik Schukking unveiled, at De Stomperd, a monument in memory of the first flight in the Netherlands. This moment of commemoration was organized by the Dutch Stichting Historisch Zweefvliegarchief.


Stichting Historisch Zweefvliegarchief. ISBN 978-90-813148
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W.H. Schukking


Photo model Wright Glider, made by Willem Jansen Groesbeek.