Steffen Bartels, Hildesheimer Str. 400, 30880 Laatzen OT Rethen 8. January 2022

Contribution to the website "Model of the Month" at the Aviation Museum Hannover-Laatzen

Andere Prioritäten…

The Heinkel He 178 V-1

He178 1 
Heinkel He 178, the world's first jet aircraft, here in 1/72 scale from Condor/ MPM.


From original to model

An independent part of the collections of the Luftfahrtmuseum Hannover-Laatzen are the more than 1,000 scale models, mainly of the international standards 1/72 and 1/48.

Such true-to-the-original miniatures enable viewers of the history of technology in museums to get an "overview", not only of the individual exhibit (sometimes even as the only possibility of a three-dimensional display if there is no surviving original), but also of the lines of development of aircraft construction through the possible arrangement and juxtaposition. Sometimes they even close gaps in the presentation of the originals. Their craftsmanship alone is a pleasure to behold.

In our series 'Model of the Month' this time we present the Heinkel He 178 V-1, the first jet in aviation history.

The original was destroyed during Allied air raids on Berlin in 1943. The Aviation Museum is displaying a 1/72 scale model made by its long-time scale model and diorama builder Siegfried Fricke in a display case in Hangar 2.

He178 2 

The wingspan of the small shoulder wing was only 7.20 m in the original.


The model: The Heinkel jet in scale 1/72

The Czech manufacturer Condor/ MPM released this model in 36 parts of very nice quality, including photo-etched parts in the mid-1990s. The kit is a jewel of any collection also due to the historical significance of its prototype.

The original: aerodrome rounds for eternity

Ernst Udet, Generaluftzeugmeister of the German Air Force, previously the most successful surviving fighter pilot of the First World War,  an aircraft designer and world-renowned aerobatic pilot, did not find it remarkably exciting what Ernst Heinkel enthusiastically told him on the telephone in the very early morning of 27 August 1939: his team had just put the world's first turbine air jet-powered aircraft into the air.

An understandable misjudgement on Udet's part, for hardly anyone in the world at the time had any idea that this launch into the jet age was the beginning of aviation as we know it today. Supersonic and eventually hypersonic flights, from modern world air transport to global military strategy: all this began with a small, 7.48 m short and single-seat shoulder-wing aircraft made of wood and steel with a jet engine in the fuselage, which Heinkel chief pilot Erich Warsitz had piloted twice that day over the factory airfield in Rostock-Marienehe.

The designer of the turbine air jet engine was the physicist Dr. Hans-J. Pabst von Ohain and his assistant Max Hahn, whom Heinkel had engaged in 1936. This HE S 3b, powered by petrol, developed around 500 kp of thrust, which could accelerate the He 178 to 700 km/h with its take-off mass of 1,998 kg.

He178 2
The He 178 completed all its flights with the wheels extended and the landing gear wells covered.


Other priorities

A handful of successful test flights followed, but they never left the vicinity of Heinkel Flugzeugwerke before the project was abandoned for lack of official interest. The war had begun and demanded front-line capable and combat-ready equipment, not visions.

Udet, as head of the Luftwaffe's Technical Office, saw this world record on the eve of the war, like the first flight of a rocket aircraft by Heinkel-Werke only two months earlier with the He 176, more as a technical gimmick. For him it was a pleasing but futile art but not a useful contribution to military (or even civilian) aviation. Especially since 14 months earlier he had flown the prototype of the He 100 A, a propeller fighter, to a land speed record of 635 km/h. Such aircraft of tried and tested technology were not only a technical gimmick, but also a piece of art. Such aircraft of proven technology were safe and met the demands of the coming war. This was the dominant view in the Reich Aviation Ministry. Jet aircraft were to be taken care of after the victory. A double mistake: Germany built the best jets after those first ones during the war, but these flew straight into surrender...

Ahead of its time

Ernst Heinkel, who was not a sympathiser of National Socialism, but who, as a designer of both civilian and military aircraft with a worldwide reputation, had also become the main supplier of armaments to the Wehrmacht. He  was in fact initially pursuing purely scientific goals with the "He 176 and 178" project. The aim was to increase flight speed while at the same time significantly improving the mass/power ratio of the engines. This was only possible with new engines, the rocket engine and above all the turbine air jet engine.

But the knowledge gained here was ahead of its time and of course militarily groundbreaking. About three years later, the "turbo" Messerschmitt Me 262, the most powerful fighter of the Second World War, the Arado Ar 234, the first long-range jet reconnaissance aircraft and bomber, and the Me 163 rocket fighter, the fastest aircraft in the world, were flying, and both the British and the Americans were working feverishly to equalise the German lead in "jets". They - like the Soviet Union - only succeeded in doing so after the German defeat. However, after the intercontinental bomber, the victors then took care of world air traffic with this new technology, while the Germans were not even allowed to fly gliders until 1951.             

Were we able to arouse your curiosity? If so, we would be delighted to welcome you to the Aviation Museum in Ulmer Straße opposite the Hanover Exhibition Grounds! 


He178 2 

One of hundreds of fascinating models that the Aviation Museum and its visitors owe to the unforgotten Siegfried Fricke.

He178 5 
The construction plan of the Czech kit from the 1990s.