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Old 22nd Feb 2009, 17:43
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Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Bucks, UK
Posts: 265
The First Jet Pilot

The First Jet Pilot – the story of German test pilot Erich Warsitz, by Lutz Warsitz (his son)
Pen & Sword ISBN 978-1-84415-818-8

This book tells the extraordinary story of how the world’s first rocket and jet-propelled aircraft were built and flown, just before the second world war. Much of it is written in the first person from Erich Warsitz’s notes, backed up by interviews of Erich and other key personnel by his son. Working closely with Von Braun, Von Ohain and Dr Heinkel, Warsitz volunteered to fly the first trials of a spectacularly unstable experimental rocket motor, installed in the rear of a He 112.

Next comes the really scary part of the story: the He 176, which became the first aircraft to fly by rocket power alone in March 1939. Warsitz tells how this tiny aircraft was built around him, with a cockpit so small that he could only operate the switches on the opposite side from his arms. The seating position was semi reclined to cope with the expected G forces, and the cockpit was designed to separate if the pilot needed to abandon the aircraft. The sequence of actions required to separate the cockpit then escape from it by parachute would have required far more altitude than the aircraft ever attained in practice. The aircraft flew a number of short flights from Peenemunde, and was demonstrated to Hitler and his generals, but Udet considered the flights too dangerous and stopped the programme.

Warsitz went on to make the first flights of the He178 – the world’s first jet powered aircraft – in August 1939, just before the outbreak of war. The book briefly touches on Warsitz’s later career. After a spell of instructing, a flying accident and health problems forced him to devote his time to a family engineering business for the remainder of the war. At the end of the war he was kidnapped by the Russians. He refused to cooperate with their work on rockets and jet so suffered harsh conditions in Siberia until his release in 1950. He died in 1983.
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