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Heinkel He 178

Heinkel He 178
RoleExperimental prototype
Crewone, pilot
Length7.48 m24' 6"
Wingspan7.20 m23' 3"
Height2.10 m6' 10"
Wing area9.1 m²98 ft²
Empty1,620 kg3,572 lb
Loaded1,998 kg 4,405 lb
Maximum take-off
EngineHeS.3B turbojet
as first flown
450 kg992 lb
Maximum speed700 km/h435 mph
200 km125 miles
8 minutes
Rate of Climb

The Heinkel He 178 was the world's first aircraft to fly under turbojet power, and the first practical jet plane. It was a private venture by the Heinkel company in accordance with director Ernst Heinkel's emphasis on developing technology for high-speed flight and first flew on August 27 1939 piloted by Erich Warsitz. This had been preceded by a short hop three days earlier.

In 1936, a young engineer named Hans von Ohain had taken out a patent on using the exhaust from a gas turbine as a means of propulsion. He presented his idea to Heinkel, who agreed to help develop the concept. Von Ohain successfully demonstrated his first engine in 1937, and plans were quickly put in place to test a similar engine in an aircraft. The He 178 was designed around von Ohain's third engine design, which burned diesel fuel. The result was a small aircraft of conventional configuration and construction, with a metal fuselage and high-mounted wooden wings. The jet intake was in the nose, and the plane was fitted with taildragger style undercarriage. On the first flight, the main gear was fixed, but was later made retractable.

The aircraft was an outstanding success - although just a flying testbed, it was only slightly slower than the fastest piston engined aircraft of the day. On November 1 1939, Heinkel arranged a demonstration of the jet for the Reichsluftfahrtministerium ("Reich Aviation Ministry" - RLM), where both Ernst Udet and Erhard Milch watched the aircraft perform. However, due to the conservative approach to aircraft design then favoured by both men, no official interest in the concept was shown. Nevertheless, Heinkel was undeterred, and decided to embark on the development of a jet fighter, the Heinkel He 280 as a private venture using what had been learned from the He 178.

The He 178 was placed in the Deutsches Technikmuseum ("German Technical Museum") in Berlin, where it was destroyed in an air raid during World War II.