Heinkel

Ernst Heinkel (1888-1958) designed aircraft for Albatros and Hansa-Brandenburg during World War I, then founded Heinkel Flugzeugwerke in 1922 at Warnemünde, a resort town on the Baltic Sea in northeastern Germany.  Heinkel employed two very talented designes, the twins Siegfried and Walter Günter, who designed aircraft of every civil and military application in the 1930s and through World War II.  The company was shut down as an aircraft manufacturer at the end of the war; after a period building cars, became an aerospace component maker and license-builder of aircraft.  It vanished into the roll-up of German aerospace companies that eventually formed EADS.

In Heinkel’s 1930s and 1940s heyday, its designs took two very different forms.  Some of its aircraft were very curvaceous, with teardrop-shaped fuselages, elliptical wings, and a minimum of protrusions; others were straight-lined and angular.  Few aircraft companies displayed such an internal schism in design philosophy, and I have sometimes wondered if it depended on which brother took the lead on each individual design.  Walter died in 1937 in an auto accident, so Heinkel’s later wartime designs reflect solely Siegfried’s influence; that would suggest that Walter may have been the one who liked curves.

Heinkel’s accomplished included the first turbojet airplane and first rocket-powered airplane ever flown, and its proposed but unbuilt projects included some of the most advanced designs developed in Germany during the war years.

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