27 August 1939

Illustration (or retouched photograph) of Heinkel He 178 V1 in flight with landing gear extended.
Erich Karl Warsitz, 1942

27 August 1939: Flugkapitän Erich Karl Warsitz, a Luftwaffe pilot assigned to the Ministry of Aviation (Reichsluftfahrtministerium) as a test pilot, made the first flight of the Heinkel He 178 V1, a proof-of-concept prototype jet-propelled airplane.

Heinkel Flugzeugwerke had built a small, single-seat, single-engine high-wing monoplane with retractable landing gear. The He 178 had the air intake at the nose and the engine exhaust out the tail, a configuration that would become the standard layout for most single-engine jet aircraft in the future. The airplane was constructed of wood and aluminum.

The He 178 V1 was 7.48 meters (24.54 feet) long, with a wingspan of 7.20 meters (23.62 feet) and height of 2.10 meters (6.89 feet). The wing area was 7.90 square meters (85.03 square feet). The prototype had an empty weight of 1,620 kilograms (3,572 pounds) and its gross weight was 1,998 kilograms (4,406 pounds).

Illustration of Heinkel He 178 V1 in flight with landing gear retracted.
Hans J. P. von Ohain

The airplane was powered by a Heinkel Strahltriebwerk HeS 3B turbojet engine, which had been designed by Hans Joachim Pabst von Ohain. The HeS 3B used a single-stage axial-flow inducer, single-stage centrifugal-flow compressor, reverse-flow combustor cans, and a single-stage radial-inflow turbine. The engine produced 1,102 pounds of thrust (4.902 kilonewtons) at 11,600 r.p.m., burning Diesel fuel. The engine’s maximum speed was 13,000 r.p.m. The HeS 3B was 1.480 meters (4.856 feet) long , 0.930 meters (3.051 feet) in diameter and weighed 360 kilograms (794 pounds).

Heinkel Strahltriebwerk HeS 3B engine, cutaway example. (Deutsches Museum)

The He 178 V1 was designed for a cruise speed of 580 kilometers per hour (360 miles per hour) and  maximum speed of 700 kilometers per hour (435 miles per hour). During flight testing, the highest speed reached was 632 kilometers per hour (393 miles per hour). Its estimated range was 200 kilometers (124 miles).

Captain Warsitz made two short circuits of the airfield then came in for a landing. This was the very first flight of an aircraft powered only by a jet engine.

(Left to right) Erich Karl Warsitz, Ernst Heinrich Heinkel, and Hans Joachim Pabst von Ohain, at dinner party celebrating the first flight of the Heinkel He 178. (NASM)

The He 178 was placed in the Deutsches Technikmuseum in Berlin, Germany. It was destroyed during a bombing raid in 1943.

Illustration of a Heinkel He 178, front view, high oblique. This may be the second prototype, V2.
Illustration showing left profile of the Heinkel He 178 V1
Illustration showing left front quarter of the Heinkel He 178 V1. Note the open cockpit.
Heinkel He 178, left rear quarter. This may be the second prototype, V2.
Heinkel He 178, rear, high oblique. This may be the second prototype, V2.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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About Bryan Swopes

Bryan R. Swopes grew up in Southern California in the 1950s–60s, near the center of America's aerospace industry. He has had a life-long interest in aviation and space flight. Bryan is a retired commercial helicopter pilot and flight instructor.

3 thoughts on “27 August 1939

  1. Very interesting picture of the three Gentlemen. Notice the way Herr Warsitz and Herr Pabst von Ohain are leaning away from Herr Heinkel. I wonder what this body language signifies?

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