Heinkel Flugzeugwerke was a German aircraft manufacturing company founded by and named after Ernst Heinkel. It is noted for producing bomber aircraft for the Luftwaffe in World War II and for important contributions to high speed flight.
It was established at Warnemünde in 1922 as the restrictions on German aviation imposed by the Treaty of Versailles were relaxed. The company's first great success was the design of the Heinkel He 70 high-speed mail-plane and airliner for Deutsche Luft Hansa in 1932. The type broke a number of air speed records for its class and was followed by the Heinkel He 111. Heinkel's most important designers at this point were the twin Günter brothers, Siegfried and Walter, and Heinrich Hertel.
The Heinkel company is most closely associated with aircraft used by the Luftwaffe during World War II. This began with the adaptation of the He 70 and, in particular, the He 111, to be used as bombers. In this role, the He 111 became a mainstay of the Luftwaffe. Heinkel also provided the Luftwaffe's heaviest operational bomber, the Heinkel He 177, although this was never deployed in significant numbers. Heinkel was less successful in selling fighter designs - before the war, the Heinkel He 112 had been rejected in favour of the Messerschmitt Bf 109, and Heinkel's attempt to top Messerschmitt's design with the Heinkel He 100 failed due to political interference within the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM - Reich Aviation Ministry). The company also provided the Luftwaffe with an outstanding nightfighter - the Heinkel He 219.
The Heinkel name was also behind pioneering work in jet engine and rocket development. In 1939, the Heinkel He 176 and Heinkel He 178 became the first aircraft to fly under liquid-fuel rocket and turbojet power respectively, and Heinkel was the first to develop a jet fighter to prototype stage, the Heinkel He 280. This latter aircraft never reached production however, since the RLM wanted Heinkel to concentrate on bomber production and instead promoted the development of the rival Messerschmitt Me 262. Very late in the war, a Heinkel jet fighter finally took to the air as the Heinkel He 162, but it had barely entered service at the time of Germany's surrender.
Following the war, Heinkel was prohibited from manufacturing aircraft and instead built bicycles, motorscooters, and a microcar, the Heinkel Trojan. The company eventually returned to aircraft in the mid 1950s, licence building F-104 Starfighters for the West German Luftwaffe.