Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Gliders/Soaring II. [conclusion]

This is coolbert:

German development of sailplane flying and sport gliding was continuous through the pre-war years [World War Two].

Even more and more sophisticated and aerodynamically progressive designs being developed. German sailplane FLIERS demonstrating that they WERE the best in the world.

Sailplane development reaching a peak of development and sophistication of design with aircraft such as the DFS Reiher. For it's time, an aerodynamic gem without equal anywhere in the world.

"Hans Jacobs designed the Reiher for the international contest 1937 on the Wasserkuppe. It was layed out for highest performance and for easy handling at the contest. Its elegant shape shows the fine aerodynamics. The wing of the Reiher was designed to give the machine the highest performance of any contest machine of that time. With a proven L/D of 33:1, it is no surprise that it won the 1938 and 1939 contests."

And of course, lest we forget, one of the most outstanding practitioners of sport gliding/sailplane flying was Hanna Reitsch.

[please note the confined quarters of the sailplane cockpit. Hanna was what is called a diminutive woman, only 5 foot, one inch tall!!]

"Of those German students and aspiring aviators who established the sport of sailplane soaring was of course, Hanna Reitsch. The famous Hanna of pre-war [World War Two [WW2]] sailplane soaring fame. It can be said that Hanna took to sailplanes and soaring as a duck would take to water and then to the air!! A natural who excelled in a manner that few ever do!"

["as a duck would take to water". YES!]

"In the 1932, medical student Hanna Reitsch began soaring and went on to become one of the first few people to cross the alps in a glider."

[again, looked at how cramped those sailplanes are. You needed to almost shoe-horned into the cockpit!]

"In 1934 she set the world's altitude record for women (2,800 m.), three years later she made the first crossing of the Alps in a glider, and in 1938 the first indoor helicopter flight in the Deutschlandhalle, Berlin."

"From 1931, when she set the women's world record for non - stop gliding (five and a half hours), extended to eleven and a half in 1933, to her world record in non - stop distance flight for gliders (305 kms) in 1936, and her woman's gliding world record for point - to - point flight in 1939, Hanna Reitsch's feats were unrivaled."

"In February 1939 an expedition to Libya under the leadership of Prof. Walter Georgii took place. Hanna Reitsch participated with a Reiher."

This expedition to Libya is most interesting. Two thousand years earlier, the soldiers of the Roman Legions, marching through the Libyan Desert, commented with astonishment at the "dust devils" they saw. Enormous and long-lived thermals scooping the desert sand high into the atmosphere, creating an atmospheric effect that amazed all. Libya was and perhaps IS one of the best places in the world to do sailplane soaring utilizing thermals for lift.

"There is no doubt that she was an excellent sailplane pilot and a very courageous woman, but some of her escapades were down-right foolhardy."

"She flys a sailplane into a thundercloud and climb 100 mph to 10,500 feet and has the aircraft and controls lock up from icing. By the grace of God, she survives. Land with Hanna in a sailplane in the middle of a football game in South America. The landing was easy, but the crowd was not."

And the famous Hanna of post-war [WW2] sailplane heroics too!!

"After the war, German citizens were forbidden from flying. A few years later, gliding was permitted. In 1952, Reitsch, the only woman to compete, won third place in the World Gliding Championships in Spain. She continued to break records including the women's altitude record (6,848 metres) and became German champion in 1955."

"Several of her gliding records stand to this day."

"In the 1970s, she returned to break many gliding records in several categories, including the Women's Out and Return World Record in 1976 (715 km) and, in 1979, the Women's Out & Return World Record (802 km) flown on the Appalachian Ridges in the USA."

[Dig this!!! Hanna, even at age sixty nine [!!!] was still of World Record setting caliber!!]


And a personality of international repute, with contacts at the highest levels of government, EVEN BEING INVITED TO THE WHITE HOUSE!!

In 1961, she was invited by US President John F. Kennedy to the White House."

"In 1959, she was invited to India by the Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in order to establish a gliding centre."

"At the request of its president, Kwame Nkrumah, Reitsch lived in Ghana from 1962 to 1966, where she founded and ran the national gliding school."

[at the time, Nehru was head and co-founder of the non-aligned movement. Nations not taking sides in the Cold War. Nkrumah was head of the Pan-African movement, an African "big man" and a person who had pretensions to be a mover and shaker on the world stage!]

[my own perception is again, that someone like Hanna in those post-war years, all over the world as she was, in contact with heads of state, HAD TO BE IN CONTACT WITH THE GEHLEN ORGANIZATION AND WAS PASSING ON ALL MATTERS OF IMPORTANCE THAT SHE HAD GLEANED, MOSTLY PERHAPS, FROM JUST CASUAL CONVERSATIONS!!]

"In 1962 the national school of gliding was set up by Hanna Reitsch who was once Adolph Hitlers top personal pilot and under the command of Air Commordore de Graft-Hayford she was director, operations instructor and trainer as well as personal pilot for Kwame Nkrumah from 1962-1966."

As for the Nazi era, of which she was such an important part, well, Hanna never did forget her original loyalties and the honors she received:

"I am not ashamed to say I believed in National Socialism. I still wear the Iron Cross with diamonds Hitler gave me. But today in all Germany you can’t find a single person who voted Adolf Hitler into power."

"Then she uttered the words that for so long kept her out of the history books: 'Many Germans feel guilty about the war. But they don’t explain the real guilt we share – that we lost.'"

Nostalgic for the good old days? You decide?




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