Ernst Heinkel

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Ernst Heinkel, 1942

Ernst Heinkel (born January 24, 1888 in Grunbach ( Oberamt Schorndorf ), Kingdom of Württemberg ; † January 30, 1958 in Stuttgart ; full name: Ernst Heinrich Heinkel ) was a German engineer and aircraft designer.

1908 to 1911 - The beginning

Ernst Heinkel dealt early on with aviation, which was still young at the time. His career began with a mechanical engineering internship in an ore foundry. In the fall semester of 1907, Ernst Heinkel began studying mechanical engineering at the Technical University of Stuttgart and became a member of the Ghibellinia fraternity in Stuttgart . As a student he experienced the accident of the Zeppelin LZ 4 on August 5, 1908 in Echterdingen near Stuttgart and it became clear to him that the future of aviation was in airplanes. After the accident he became involved in aircraft construction, which was gradually starting in Germany. In 1909 he visited the first international air show in Germany in Frankfurt am Main . Just a year later, he built his first aircraft based on the plans by Henri Farman . Countless attempts to fly on the Cannstatter Wasen followed , for which he almost paid with his life: On July 19, 1911, Heinkel fell from a height of 40 meters over Untertürkheim and was seriously injured.

1911 to 1922 - First aircraft

Despite the accident, it was now clear to Heinkel that he wanted to build airplanes. On October 1, 1911, he went to the Luft-Verkehrs-Gesellschaft AG (LVG) as a designer . In 1911, under chief designer Franz Schneider, the LVG built only two double-deckers, type D 3, of the Albatros Flugzeugwerke design , which in turn were based on the Farman double-deckers. In 1912 an improved biplane with a covered bow, 18 of which were sold to the army administration, and a monoplane were brought out. During this time Heinkel married.

In December 1912 he went to the Albatros Flugzeugwerke , where he developed his first own aircraft, the Albatros B.II , a reconnaissance aircraft. This type of aircraft was used throughout the First World War . In 1914, Ernst Heinkel went to the Hansa and Brandenburgische Flugzeug-Werke as works director , for which he designed a number of seaplanes , including the Hansa-Brandenburg CC flying boat and the Hansa-Brandenburg KDW .

Due to the requirements of the Versailles Peace Treaty , Heinkel was initially unable to build aircraft after the war. He founded a small workshop in his hometown of Grunbach, where he converted military vehicles. Around 1920 Heinkel constructed some further developments of his Hansa-Brandenburg machines for the Caspar-Werke in Travemünde , which were assembled from 1921 by Svenska Aero AB in Lidingö with the collaboration of Carl Clemens Bücker , the founder of the later Bücker Flugzeugbau .

Heinkel (left) during testing in the wind tunnel

1922 to 1933 - The Heinkel Flugzeugwerke

In 1922 Ernst Heinkel founded his own company in Rostock-Warnemünde , the Ernst Heinkel Flugzeugwerke . Due to the requirements of the Versailles Treaty, aircraft in Germany could only be built with technical and numerical restrictions. This led Ernst Heinkel to look for foreign clients for whom he designed aircraft that could then be built abroad under license. He found such a partner in the Imperial Japanese Navy , for which Heinkel had catapult-launched seaplanes built by Svenska Aero AB in Sweden on a license basis . In Germany, on the other hand, his catapult seaplanes were only installed in civil seafaring as mail planes on the large passenger ships.

The Heinkel He 70 , developed on behalf of Deutsche Lufthansa, was by far the fastest passenger aircraft of its time. The machine reached a speed of over 370 km / h in 1932, with more powerful British Rolls-Royce engines then over 400 km / h.

Due to the pioneering work in the field of aerodynamic improvements to the airframe, Ernst Heinkel was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Technical University of Stuttgart in 1925 and by the University of Rostock in 1932.

1933 to 1945 - the time of National Socialism

After the " seizure of power " by the National Socialists in 1933, Heinkel became a member of the NSDAP . In the same year, the new German Air Force , which was initially kept secret, began commissioning aircraft factories to develop and manufacture combat aircraft. The He 111 , a twin-engine bomber originally planned as a commercial aircraft, attracted particular attention from the air force command. In Oranienburg ( Heinkel-Werke Oranienburg ) near Berlin, a large factory was built between 1936 and 1937 for the production of the He 111, which was presented on state visits as a showpiece and a symbol of German industrial achievement. Although this system was called "Ernst Heinkel Werke", it was owned exclusively by the German Air Force and was only later bought by Ernst Heinkel himself.

In 1937 Ernst Heinkel was appointed military economic leader, regardless of the frequent clashes between Heinkel and various organizations of the NSDAP, especially the SS.

Gentlemen's evening of the Lilienthal Society in the New Palace in Potsdam on October 11, 1938, v. l. Ernst Udet , Erhard Milch and Ernst Heinkel, picture from the Federal Archives

Ernst Heinkel was obsessed with the idea of ​​developing high-speed aircraft. Therefore, he donated some of his planes to Wernher von Braun so that von Braun could test his new rocket propulsion system on them. In 1938, the He 176, the world's first liquid fuel-powered rocket aircraft, was tested. Heinkel found the right visionary in Hans von Ohain , because they both shared the same passion. Heinkel employed von Ohain as chief engineer in his works and he and his team developed the Heinkel HeS 3 , the world's first jet engine . On 27 August 1939 the first launched jet aircraft the Heinkel -Flugzeugwerke , the He 178 , at the airport Rostock-Marienehe .

In 1938, Ernst Heinkel, along with Ferdinand Porsche and Fritz Todt, was awarded the German National Prize for Art and Science , newly founded by Adolf Hitler in 1937, half of which he shared with Willy Messerschmitt (50,000 Reichsmarks ).

In 1939 Heinkel acquired a previously “ Aryanizedmetal works in Jenbach ( Tyrol ) , which he modernized technologically and converted to light metal production.

In 1943 Heinkel gave a lecture at a meeting of the Reich Working Group for the Company Suggestion System on the Company Suggestion System (BVW), which he had introduced in his plants since 1930. His lecture was published under the title My experiences as a manager with the company suggestion scheme by the teaching material center of the German Labor Front and was an important advertising tool for the BVW, which has been strongly promoted by the National Socialists since 1939.

Ernst Heinkel was the type of an idiosyncratic inventor-entrepreneur and pursued a company strategy of constantly acquiring new plants and areas of activity. With his research pace he drew criticism from leading representatives of the armaments industry and finally had to bow to a financial consolidation prescribed by the armaments authority, which was reflected in the establishment of " Ernst Heinkel AG " (EHAG) in 1943 . With the construction of the AG, Heinkel's direct influence on his operations with a workforce of around 50,000 people, mostly forced laborers and concentration camp prisoners, was stopped for the time being. Although he kept two thirds of the company's capital, he had to be content with the post of chairman of the supervisory board .

A large part of the Heinkel works was destroyed or expropriated and dismantled in 1945.

The "Förderkreis Luft- und Raumfahrt Mecklenburg-Vorpommern e. V. ”in Rostock has been devoting its activities to aviation history since 1993 (search, restoration, preservation of objects and documents).

1945 to 1958 - post-war period

The assessment of Heinkel's role in National Socialism led to disagreements, especially through depictions and legends about himself that he himself embellished. Heinkel had a brochure distributed as early as October 1945 with the title “The Relationships of Prof. Dr. Ernst Heinkel on National Socialism ”and in which he stylized himself as a victim and opponent of the Nazi regime. In a letter to the denazification authority , Heinkel said: "I'm known as an anti-fascist [...] I've been a party member since 1933, but I've never been a Nazi, I had constant quarrels with the Gauleiter, Kreisleiter, etc." Ernst Heinkel was arrested in 1948 and initially classified as a “fellow traveler” of the Nazi regime, after the appeal process, however, due to his proximity to the resistance group of Canaris before the end of the war, classified as “exonerated” by the Allies.

His attempt to get back the factory in Jenbach , Austria, which he had acquired in 1939 and which was classified as “ German property ” after the end of the war , failed.

In 1950, the Heinkel works in Stuttgart began producing engines for Veritas , among others . From 1953 motor scooters were built. These “ Heinkel Tourist ” scooters with four-stroke engines and chain drives running in oil quickly became famous for their robustness. In 1954, Heinkel founded "Ernst Heinkel Motorenbau GmbH" in Karlsruhe . In 1955 the Heinkel-Werke expanded the range with the Heinkel cabin to include scooter mobiles . From 1958 the Heinkel-Werke in Speyer returned to their roots with the renewed aircraft development under the name Ernst Heinkel-Flugzeugbau. The company was merged in 1964 in the United Flugtechnische Werke GmbH (VFW) - Fokker GmbH, which today operates under the name of PFW Aerospace .


  • 1937: Japanese Order of the Sacred Treasure , 3rd class
  • In 1938 Heinkel received the German National Prize for Art and Science together with Willy Messerschmitt
  • Ernst Heinkel was made an honorary citizen of the municipality of Remshalden , in which his place of birth Grunbach was absorbed; the secondary school there was named after him until the 2017/2018 school year and has been called Realschule Remshalden since then .
  • Ernst Heinkel is an honorary doctor from the University of Rostock.



  • Ernst Heinkel - The dream of flying. Documentary, Germany, 2007, 44:20 min., Script and direction: Jörg Herrmann, production: Looks, NDR , first broadcast: February 5th, 2008 on NDR, summary by NDR.

Web links

Commons : Ernst Heinkel  - Collection of Images

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Ernst Klee : The dictionary of persons on the Third Reich. Who was what before and after 1945. 2nd updated edition. Fischer Taschenbuch, Frankfurt am Main 2005, p. 239.
  2. Norbert Rohde: The Heinkel aircraft factory Oranienburg. 2006, pp. 56, 167, 168.
  3. Prof. Dr.-Ing. e. i.e., Dr. phil. hc Ernst Heinkel: My experiences as a manager with the company suggestion scheme , Berlin 1943, 36 pages. Complete facsimile with an introduction by Peter Koblank (PDF; 2.8 MB)
  4. cit. after: Paul Erker: Ernst Heinkel. The aviation industry in the field of tension between technological change and political upheaval. In: German entrepreneurs between the war economy and reconstruction. Munich 1999, p. 253.
  5. Biography of E. Heinkel. In: Heinkel works in Germany. Retrieved February 20, 2012 .
  6. Ernst Heinkel is history. In: Stuttgarter Nachrichten . October 17, 2016, accessed August 13, 2020 .
  7. What's new. Illustrated technology for everyone / Illustrated technology for everyone, combined with “Das Industrieblatt” and “Illustrierte Motor-Zeitung” Stuttgart. The big illustrated magazine of German work, technology and intelligence / illustrated technology, unites with “Das Industrieblatt” and “Technikangs vor!” Stuttgart (-) Berlin. The big illustrated magazine of German work, technology and intelligence / illustrated technology. Current weekly for technology, business and operations. Associated with: "Industrieblatt" and "Illustrierte Motorzeitung" , year 1933, p. 52 (online at ANNO ).Template: ANNO / Maintenance / itj