Alexander Lippisch

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Alexander Lippisch
Bundesarchiv Bild 102-13690, Gunter Groenhoff.jpg
Alexander Lippisch, with Günther Grönhoff in the cockpit of the Storch V.
Born(1894-11-02)November 2, 1894
DiedFebruary 11, 1976(1976-02-11) (aged 81)
Engineering career
Projects Messerschmitt Me 163
Significant advancefirst delta wing to fly
first mass-produced rocket fighter

Alexander Martin Lippisch (November 2, 1894 – February 11, 1976) was a German aeronautical engineer, a pioneer of aerodynamics who made important contributions to the understanding of tailless aircraft, delta wings and the ground effect, and also worked in the U.S. His most famous designs are the Messerschmitt Me 163 rocket-powered interceptor [1] :174 and the Dornier Aerodyne. [2]

Aerodynamics branch of dynamics concerned with studying the motion of air

Aerodynamics, from Greek ἀήρ aer (air) + δυναμική (dynamics), is the study of motion of air, particularly as interaction with a solid object, such as an airplane wing. It is a sub-field of fluid dynamics and gas dynamics, and many aspects of aerodynamics theory are common to these fields. The term aerodynamics is often used synonymously with gas dynamics, the difference being that "gas dynamics" applies to the study of the motion of all gases, and is not limited to air. The formal study of aerodynamics began in the modern sense in the eighteenth century, although observations of fundamental concepts such as aerodynamic drag were recorded much earlier. Most of the early efforts in aerodynamics were directed toward achieving heavier-than-air flight, which was first demonstrated by Otto Lilienthal in 1891. Since then, the use of aerodynamics through mathematical analysis, empirical approximations, wind tunnel experimentation, and computer simulations has formed a rational basis for the development of heavier-than-air flight and a number of other technologies. Recent work in aerodynamics has focused on issues related to compressible flow, turbulence, and boundary layers and has become increasingly computational in nature.

Tailless aircraft

A tailless aircraft has no tail assembly and no other horizontal surface besides its main wing. The aerodynamic control and stabilisation functions in both pitch and roll are incorporated into the main wing. A tailless type may still have a conventional vertical fin and rudder.

Delta wing wing shaped in the form of a triangle

The delta wing is a wing shaped in the form of a triangle. It is named for its similarity in shape to the Greek uppercase letter delta (Δ).


Early life

Lippisch was born in Munich, Kingdom of Bavaria. He later recalled that his interest in aviation began with a demonstration conducted by Orville Wright over Tempelhof Field in Berlin in September 1909. [3] Nonetheless, he planned to follow his father's footsteps into art school, until the outbreak of World War I intervened. During his service with the German Army, between 1915–1918, Lippisch had the chance to fly as an aerial photographer and mapper.

Munich Capital and most populous city of Bavaria, Germany

Munich is the capital and most populous city of Bavaria, the second most populous German federal state. With a population of around 1.5 million, it is the third-largest city in Germany, after Berlin and Hamburg, as well as the 12th-largest city in the European Union. The city's metropolitan region is home to 6 million people. Straddling the banks of the River Isar north of the Bavarian Alps, it is the seat of the Bavarian administrative region of Upper Bavaria, while being the most densely populated municipality in Germany. Munich is the second-largest city in the Bavarian dialect area, after the Austrian capital of Vienna.

Kingdom of Bavaria kingdom in Central Europe between 1806–1918, from January 1871 part of the German Empire

The Kingdom of Bavaria was a German state that succeeded the former Electorate of Bavaria in 1805 and continued to exist until 1918. The Bavarian Elector Maximilian IV Joseph of the House of Wittelsbach became the first King of Bavaria in 1805 as Maximilian I Joseph. The crown would go on being held by the Wittelsbachs until the kingdom came to an end in 1918. Most of Bavaria's present-day borders were established after 1814 with the Treaty of Paris, in which Bavaria ceded Tyrol and Vorarlberg to the Austrian Empire while receiving Aschaffenburg and Würzburg. With the unification of Germany into the German Empire in 1871, the kingdom became a federal state of the new Empire and was second in size, power, and wealth only to the leading state, the Kingdom of Prussia. In 1918, Bavaria became a republic, and the kingdom was thus succeeded by the current Free State of Bavaria.

Berlin Capital of Germany

Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,748,148 (2018) inhabitants make it the second most populous city proper of the European Union after London. The city is one of Germany's 16 federal states. It is surrounded by the state of Brandenburg, and contiguous with its capital, Potsdam. The two cities are at the center of the Berlin-Brandenburg capital region, which is, with about six million inhabitants and an area of more than 30,000 km², Germany's third-largest metropolitan region after the Rhine-Ruhr and Rhine-Main regions.

Early aircraft designs

Following the war, Lippisch worked with the Zeppelin Company, and it was at this time that he first became interested in tailless aircraft. In 1921, his first design to be built, by his friend Gottlob Espenlaub, was the Espenlaub E-2 glider. This was the beginning of a research programme that would result in some fifty designs throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Lippisch's growing reputation saw him appointed in 1925 as the director of the Rhön-Rossitten Gesellschaft (RRG), a glider organisation including research groups and construction facilities.

Luftschiffbau Zeppelin Airship manufacturer in Germany

Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH is a German company which, during the early 20th century, was a leader in the design and manufacture of rigid airships. The company was founded by Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin. 'Luftschiffbau' is a German word meaning building of airships.

Gottlob Espenlaub inventor

Gottlob Espenlaub, nicknamed Espe, was an inventor who specialized in early types of aircraft, specifically gliders and rocket propulsion systems designed for them. He invented a number of different aircraft, focusing on tailless designs. Espenlaub co-founded the practice of aerotowing.

The Rhön-Rossitten Gesellschaft (RRG) or Rhön-Rossitten Society was a German gliding organization, the first one in the world that was officially recognised. The Rhön-Rossitten Gesellschaft was mainly responsible for establishing gliding as a sport, not only in Germany but eventually throughout the world.

Lippisch also designed conventional gliders at this time, including the Wien of 1927 and its successor the Fafnir of 1930. In 1928, Lippisch's tail-first Ente (Duck) became the first aircraft to fly under rocket power.[ citation needed ] From 1927, he resumed his tailless work, leading to a series of designs named Storch IStorch IX (Stork I-IX), mostly gliders. These designs attracted little interest from the government and private industry.

Lippisch Wien

The Lippisch Wien was a high performance glider designed by Alexander Lippisch in Germany in 1929. Owned and flown by Robert Kronfeld, it was one of the first sailplanes intended to exploit thermals. It set world records both for distance and altitude and demonstrated the practicality of long distance cross country flights.

Canard (aeronautics) aircraft wing configuration with a small wing ahead of the main wing, or such a forewing

A canard is an aeronautical arrangement wherein a small forewing or foreplane is placed forward of the main wing of a fixed-wing aircraft. The term "canard" may be used to describe the aircraft itself, the wing configuration or the foreplane.

Lippisch Ente

The Ente was the world’s first rocket-powered full-size aircraft. It was designed by Alexander Lippisch as a sailplane and first flown under power on June 11, 1928, piloted by Fritz Stamer.

Delta wing designs

Experience with the Storch series led Lippisch to concentrate increasingly on delta-winged designs. The Delta I was the world's first [4] tailless delta wing aircraft to fly (in 1931 [5] [6] ). This interest resulted in five aircraft, numbered Delta I – Delta V, which were built between 1931 and 1939. [6] In 1933, RGG had been reorganised into the Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Segelflug (German Institute for Sailplane Flight, DFS) and the Delta IV and Delta V were designated as the DFS 39 and DFS 40 respectively.

DFS 40

The DFS 40 was a tail-less research aircraft designed by Alexander Lippisch in 1937 as a follow-on to his Delta IV aircraft. In construction, the DFS was closer to a flying wing than its predecessor, and was built as an alternative to that aircraft.

World War II projects

In early 1939, the Reichsluftfahrtsministerium (RLM, Reich Aviation Ministry) transferred Lippisch and his team to work at the Messerschmitt factory, in order to design a high-speed fighter aircraft around the rocket engines [5] then under development by Hellmuth Walter. The team quickly adapted their most recent design, the DFS 194, to rocket power, the first example successfully flying in early 1940. This successfully demonstrated the technology for what would become the Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet. [7]

Messerschmitt 1938-1968 aircraft manufacturer

Messerschmitt AG was a German share-ownership limited, aircraft manufacturing corporation named after its chief designer Willy Messerschmitt from mid-July 1938 onwards, and known primarily for its World War II fighter aircraft, in particular the Bf 109 and Me 262. The company survived in the post-war era, undergoing a number of mergers and changing its name from Messerschmitt to Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm before being bought by Deutsche Aerospace in 1989.

Fighter aircraft Military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat against other aircraft

A fighter aircraft is a military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat against other aircraft, as opposed to bombers and attack aircraft, whose main mission is to attack ground targets. The hallmarks of a fighter are its speed, maneuverability, and small size relative to other combat aircraft.

Hellmuth Walter was a German engineer who pioneered research into rocket engines and gas turbines. His most noteworthy contributions were rocket motors for the Messerschmitt Me 163 and Bachem Ba 349 interceptor aircraft, so-called Starthilfe jettisonable rocket propulsion units used for a variety of Luftwaffe aircraft during World War II, and a revolutionary new propulsion system for submarines known as air-independent propulsion (AIP).

Although technically novel, the Komet did not prove to be a successful weapon and friction between Lippisch and Messerschmitt was frequent. In 1943, Lippisch transferred to Vienna's Aeronautical Research Institute (Luftfahrtforschungsanstalt Wien, LFW), to concentrate on the problems of high-speed flight. [5] That same year, he was awarded a doctoral degree in engineering by the University of Heidelberg.

Wind tunnel research in 1939 had suggested that the delta wing was a good choice for supersonic flight, and Lippisch set to work designing a supersonic, ramjet-powered fighter, the Lippisch P.13a. By the time the war ended, however, the project had only advanced as far as a development glider, the DM-1.

Postwar work in the United States

Like many German scientists, Lippisch was taken to the United States after the war under Operation Paperclip at the White Sands Missile Range.


Advances in jet engine design were making Lippisch's ideas more practical, and Convair became interested in a hybrid (mixed power) jet/rocket design which they proposed as the F-92. In order to gain experience with the delta wing handling at high speeds, they first built a test aircraft, the 7002 which, on June 9, 1948, became the first jet-powered delta-wing aircraft to fly. [8] Although the U.S. Air Force lost interest in the F-92, the next test model 7003 was designated the XF-92A. This led Convair to proposing delta wing for most of their projects through the 1950s and into the 1960s, including the F-102 Delta Dagger, F-106 Delta Dart and B-58 Hustler.[ citation needed ]

Ground effect aircraft

From 1950–1964, Lippisch worked for the Collins Radio Company in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which had an aeronautical division. [5] It was during this time that his interest shifted toward ground effect craft. The results were an unconventional VTOL aircraft (eventually becoming the Dornier Aerodyne) and an aerofoil boat research seaplane X-112, flown in 1963. However, Lippisch contracted cancer, and resigned from Collins.

When he recovered in 1966, he formed his own research company, Lippisch Research Corporation, and attracted the interest of the West German government. Prototypes for both the aerodyne and the ground-effect craft RFB X-113 (1970) then RFB X-114 (1977) were built, but no further development was undertaken. The Kiekhaefer Mercury company was also interested in his ground-effect craft and successfully tested one of his designs as the Aeroskimmer, but also eventually lost interest.

Death and Legacy

Lippisch died in Cedar Rapids on February 11, 1976. [5] In 1985, he was inducted into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame at the San Diego Air & Space Museum. [9]

Some Lippisch designs

See also

Related Research Articles

Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet rocket interceptor developed by Messerschmitt late in World War II

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The Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Segelflug, or DFS, was formed in 1933 to centralise all gliding activity in Germany, under the directorship of Professor Georgii. It was formed by the nationalisation of the Rhön-Rossitten Gesellschaft (RRG) at Darmstadt.

DFS 194

The DFS 194 was a rocket-powered aircraft designed by Alexander Lippisch at the Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Segelflug.

Lippisch Delta IV 1936 experimental aircraft

Alexander Lippisch's Delta IV was a continuation of his work on delta wing designs pioneered in his Delta I, Delta II and Delta III aircraft.

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Lippisch P.20

The Lippisch P.20 was a proposed World War II German fighter aircraft. The P.20 design of April 1943 was an attempt to further develop the rocket-powered Me 163 interceptor into a feasible turbojet powered fighter.

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DFS 193 proposed aircraft

The DFS 193 was a planned experimental German aircraft of the 1930s planned by Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Segelflug (DFS). Designed by Professor Alexander Lippisch and a DFS employee named Roth, it resembled Lippisch's Storch IX and the Gotha Go 147.

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  1. Reitsch, H., 1955, The Sky My Kingdom, London: Biddles Limited, Guildford and King's Lynn, ISBN   1853672629
  3. Wright Flyer over Templehoff Archived 2005-11-26 at the Wayback Machine
  4. Ford, Roger (2000). Germany's secret weapons in World War II (1. publ. ed.). Osceola, WI: MBI Publ. p. 36. ISBN   0-7603-0847-0.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 F. Marc de Piolenc & George E. Wright Jr. Ducted Fan Design. 1 (Revised ed.). pp. 129–130. Retrieved 13 February 2011.
  6. 1 2 "New Triangle Plane Is Tailless", December 1931, Popular Science article and photo of Delta I at bottom of page 65
  7. Lippisch, A.; The Delta Wing: History and Development, Iowa State University 1981, page 45: "Let me stress, however that the DFS 194 should in no way be regarded as a predecessor of the Me 163. The Me 163-Delta IVd was derived directly from the Delta-IVc-DFS 39."
  8. Aviation week. 51. McGraw-Hill Pub. Co. 1949.
  9. Sprekelmeyer, Linda, editor. These We Honor: The International Aerospace Hall of Fame. Donning Co. Publishers, 2006. ISBN   978-1-57864-397-4.
  10. Masters, David (1982). German Jet Genesis (1. publ. ed.). London, UK: Jane's Publishing Company Limited. p. 142. ISBN   0-86720-622-5.