Post a Comment Print Share on Facebook
Featured Fussball SPD SeibelKarsten Coronavirus Karriere

Crash near Dresden. The passenger jet that was not allowed to exist

March 4, 1959 was supposed to give wings to socialism.

- 31 reads.

Crash near Dresden. The passenger jet that was not allowed to exist

March 4, 1959 was supposed to give wings to socialism. Literally. Because on this day the second test flight of the airplane "152" was scheduled, the first passenger plane with a jet engine, which had been built in Germany. In the GDR, of course. At the upcoming Leipzig Spring Fair, the jet was supposed to impress the Soviet head of state and party, Nikita Khrushchev. Therefore, the necessary tests were completed too quickly.

A ceremony at the New Cemetery in Dresden-Klotzsche commemorated the consequences on Monday. Not far from the airport is the grave of honor for two pilots and two engineers who crashed on March 4, 1959 at around 1:50 p.m. with the "152". The wreath-laying ceremony is also a reminder of the equally ambitious and costly project of the SED leadership around Walter Ulbricht to demonstrate the economic and technical superiority of the GDR with a civilian aviation industry in the Federal Republic.

After the popular uprising of June 17, 1953, this seemed urgently needed. A coincidence came to the rescue of the GDR leadership. In September of this year, the USSR – its dictator Stalin had died in March – allowed the return of the specialists of the Nazi aviation industry who had been deported to the Soviet Union after 1945 as part of Operation Ossawakim. The key figure was Brunolf Baade, the former chief designer at the Junkers works in Dessau.

Although the victorious powers had banned the construction of aircraft in Germany in 1945 (which applied to the Federal Republic until the Germany Treaty came into force), Ulbricht and Khrushchev had agreed to reactivate the Junkers works. Probably because of Dessau's proximity to West Berlin, however, the former air warfare school in Dresden was selected as the location for the state-owned GDR aviation industry.

In order to speed up the company despite the lack of specialists, technology and material, Baade resorted to the developments that he and his colleagues in Savyalowo, south of Moscow, had promoted. There the twin-engine medium bomber EF 150 was created. Enlarged by 20 percent, it became the template for the "152", whose type code was not in vain placed in the tradition of the famous Junkers Ju-52 transport aircraft, in order to facilitate a future market launch. The socialist sister countries, especially the Soviet Union, as well as southern Europe, the Middle East and Latin America were considered as potential buyers.

Although the government provided billions of Ostmarks for the prestige project, the work soon lagged behind the plan. On the one hand, this was due to deficiencies in the Soviet supply industry and, on the other hand, to the lack of specialists and insufficient equipment. When the first prototype of the "152" was finally to be presented to a high-calibre delegation from East Berlin led by Ulbricht on May 1, 1958, just 36 percent of the machine had been completed. Neither the hydraulics nor the landing gear worked. Dummy concealed the lack of engines.

Since the Soviet Union itself was now pushing ahead with the development of civil jet aircraft and thus the commercial marketing of the "152", designed for up to 70 passengers, was in danger, work was intensified again. With the help of Soviet engines, the four-engine machine made its maiden flight on December 4, 1958, more than two years after the originally planned date. Nevertheless, the WELT headline at the time: "Economic miracle from Dresden".

In order to persuade Kremlin boss Khrushchev to buy as many jets as possible, the presentation at the Leipzig Spring Fair was made a must. Therefore, a second, early test flight was scheduled for March 4, 1959 with the same crew that had already completed the first flight, without the testing center for aircraft having completed its investigations. In addition to Captain Willi Lehmann and co-pilot Kurt Bemme, engineers Paul Heerling and Georg Eismann were on board.

Contrary to the flight plan, Baade pushed through an additional program item. After that, the “152” was to fly low over the test site in order to be able to film and take photos. The course should then be set for Leipzig in order to convince Khrushchev of the efficiency of the GDR planned economy by the crew radioing "brotherly battle salutes" during the overflight.

The plane took off from Dresden-Klotzsche at 12:56 p.m., and 55 minutes later a column of black smoke rose into the sky. The plane had crashed in low flight near Ottendorf-Okrilla, 5.7 kilometers from the airfield.

Ulbricht ordered an investigation, but it was limited to eight days. The ambitious program must not be jeopardized. The report was immediately confiscated by state security and disappeared into the safe. "Operating errors" by the crew made the rounds, which were nevertheless given a grave of honour. Some also wanted to know about sabotage.

Only after the fall of 1989 did parts of the secret investigation report become known. After that, the plane had descended to 100 meters when the engines failed, possibly due to a fault in the fueling system. This would have blamed Baade for the crash, but that didn't stop his career. He later became director of the Institute for Lightweight Construction at the TU Dresden.

Other prototypes were still completed and completed some test flights. But on February 28, 1961, the SED Politburo decided to phase out the ruinous aircraft industry. The technical development had long since overtaken the "152", whose transport capacity and fuel consumption did not allow for economical operation. In addition, the Soviet Union had developed robust types with the Tupolev Tu-104 and Tu-124, which the socialist sister countries and their friendly states were happy to buy.

All completed "152" machines were scrapped, and the employees of VVB Flugzeugbau were assigned to other divisions. Only the fuselage of prototype number eleven survived the times. It was restored by the Dresden Transport Museum after reunification and can now be viewed in a hall at Dresden-Klotzsche Airport.

This article was first published on March 4, 2019.

You can also find "World History" on Facebook. We are happy about a like.

Your Name
Post a Comment
Characters Left:
Your comment has been forwarded to the administrator for approval.×
Warning! Will constitute a criminal offense, illegal, threatening, offensive, insulting and swearing, derogatory, defamatory, vulgar, pornographic, indecent, personality rights, damaging or similar nature in the nature of all kinds of financial content, legal, criminal and administrative responsibility for the content of the sender member / members are belong.