German Aviation Personalities

This page is just to include some nice photographs and illustrations of some famous German aviation engineers, designers and leaders which I could not include in my book. I will add some more detailed biographical information over the next few weeks. Whilst many of the images below are available online, these are particularly nice as they contain their personal signatures too.

Kurt Tank (November 24, 1898 – June 5, 1983)

Kurt Waldemar Tank is most famous for the Fw 190 fighter, he is somewhat unusual in that in addition to his duties as chief designer, he also test-flew all of his own aircraft. He was born in Bromberg. From 1906-1914 he attended preparatory school and High-School in Nakel (Netze).

Some disagreement exists on his activities in WW1, and on some English websites he is erroniously credited with serving in the cavalry. However authentic German biographical information states that from 1914-1919 he served as a volunteer in the infantry, and ended the war as a Lieutenant in the Reserves. After WW1 he studied at TU Berlin (“Technischen Hochschule Berlin”) and obtained his Diploma in 1924. After graduating he worked as Head of the Design Office at Rohrbach Metallflugzeugbau G.m.b.H, in Berlin, followed by a very short stint of one year at Bayerischen Flugzeugwerken in Augsburg. He then left to start his main activities at Focke-Wulf in 1931.

Tanks’ official title in the mid-wartime period was “Technical and Managing Director” of Focke-Wulf Flugzeugbau (“Technischer Leiter und Geschäftsführer”). Period literature states that his main activities were:

“Main area of ​​work: drafting, flight mechanics and flight testing.”

During the war his private home resided in Bremen, in an attractive area which is now close to the Botanical Gardens.

Claude Dornier
Ernst Heinkel
Willy Messerschmitt (June 26, 1898 – September 15, 1978)

Messerschmitt was born in Frankfurt am Main, and studied at the “Gymnasiums” in Bamberg and Münnerstadt. From 1918 to 1923 he studied machine design at Technischen Hochschule München. The groundwork for his firm started after this point, and in 1926 he formed Messerschmitt Flugzeugbau G.m.b.H. In 1927 a collaborative arrangement was agreed with Bayerischen Flugzeugweke A.G. in Augsburg, which he joined as a member of the board of directors in 1928.

Otto Mader (September 17, 1880 — September 9, 1944)

Otto Mader was born in Nürnberg and attended the Maximilian-Gymnasium grammar school in München where Latin, English, Spanish and Greek were emphasized. From 1899 to 1903 he studied Mechanical Engineering at TU München. From 1904 to 1905 he worked in München for an engineering firm, then from 1905-1906 for Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg, and was involved with Diesel-engines. From 1906-1909 he was employed by TU Münich, and also achieved his Doctorate in Engineering with the so-called “Undograph” which he developed to measure torsional vibrations in shafts, especially in Diesel-Engines (a page from his thesis is produced below).

Text illustration vol. 324, p. 529

After this achievement, from 1909 to 1912 he acted as the first assistant to Professor Hugo Junkers at TU Aachen and was in charge of several laboratories. After 1912 he was in charge of the “Forschungsanstalt Professor Junkers” (Professor Junkers Research Institute), and became heavily involved with large diesel engines and fuel injection – he also was responsible for extending the size of the Junkers facility wind-tunnels. From 1915 he was involved in developing Junkers metal fuselages with types J1, J4, J7, J9 and J10. After the war he developed Junkers diesel engines for vehicles. In 1928 he was appointed a full professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering at TU Münich.

Soon afterwards he became in overall charge of aero-engine activities at the Junkers facilities based in and around Dessau. Mader was one of the principal engineers involved in early research into direct petrol injection for aero-engines, which he started around 1932. He died in hospital before the end of the war.

Otto Mader is without question one of the most exceptional engineers in Germany in the 1930`s, and made outstanding achievements in both academia, and the practical development of industrial engineering facilities.

Friedrich Seewald

Friedrich Seewald was a research scientist at the DVL from 1924 to 1936. was a chair of applied mathematical Sciences and Fluid Mechanics at TU Aachen, one of the most important Technical universities in Germany. TU Aachen has a long history of combustion engine research, which continues to this day. Seewald also became the head of research at the DVL after the war ended.

Albert Betz (25 December 1885 – 16 April 1968)