On January 24, 1888, German aircraft designer an manufacturer Ernst Heinkel was born. Heinkel’s company Heinkel Flugzeugwerke produced the Heinkel He 178, the world’s first turbojet aircraft and jet plane, and the Heinkel He 176, the first rocket aircraft.
Ernst Heinkel was apprenticed as machinist at a foundry and later studied at the Technical Academy of Stuttgart. There Heinkel became enthusiastic for aviation and fascinated by Zeppelins. Around 1910, Heinkel built his first aircraft inspired by the plans of Henri Farman. However, one year later his plane crashed and Ernst Heinkel was injured severely. Still, he was employed at Luft-Verkehrs Gesellschaft and later Albatros. Ernst Heinkel designed the Albatros B-II, a reconnaissance aircraft used during the early stages of the First World War. During the war, Heinkel’s planes were used by the Austro-Hungarian army and Germany‘s Kaiserliche Marine. Starting from 1914, Heinkel was employed by Hansa-Brandenburg where he designed land- and seaplanes.
In 1922, Ernst Heinkel founded the Heinkel-Flugzeugwerke company at Warnemünde. However, due to the restrictions placed on German aircraft manufacturing by the Treaty of Versailles, Heinkel looked overseas for contracts, with some seaplane designs being licence-built in Sweden and working on catapult-launched seaplanes for the Imperial Japanese Navy. Heinkel’s relationship with Japan was believed to be especially close, since the Japanese government apparently helped Heinkel to cover up his violation of the Versailles Treaty, which banned the construction of military aircraft in Germany.
Heinkel’s company also became more successful after Adolf Hitler came to power. In that period, the Heinkel company built the Heinkel He 59, the Heinkel He 115 and the Heinkel He 111 and Heinkel was announced defence industry leader for his commitment to rearmment.
Since Ernst Heinkel was enthusiastic about exploring alternative forms of aircraft propulsion and donated aircraft to Wernher von Braun who was back then researching rocket propulsion for aircraft. He also sponsored the research of Hans von Ohain into turbojet engines, which led to the flight of the Heinkel He 178, the first aircraft to fly solely under turbojet power by Erich Warsitz in 1939.
Even though Heinkel is believed to have been criticizing Adolf Hitler’s regime and his politics forbidding to employ Jewish workers. However, Heinkel was a member of the Nazi Party and used forced Jewish labor starting in 1941. One year later, Ernst Heinkel’s works were nationalized, which meant that Heinkel had to sell his controlling interest in his factories to Hermann Göring. Heinkel moved to Vienna and started a new design bureau and corporate offices in Vienna’s Schwechat suburb, establishing new manufacturing facilities. One of the later projects Ernst Heinkel worked on was the Heinkel He 177A heavy bomber. After the war, Heinkel made a living with private transportation and introduced the Bubble car and the Perle moped.
At yovisto you can enjoy a video on the X-1: The First Aircraft to Break the Sound Barrier.
References and Further Reading:
- Die Geschichte der Ernst-Heinkel-Flugzeugwerke (in German)
- Ernst Heinkels neue fliegerische Welt (in German)
- Ernst Heinkel at Britannica