Baade 152 – The Cold War Air­liner That Never Was

Jetgala - - CONTENT - by Steve Slater

EVEN AR­DENT AIR­CRAFT EN­THU­SI­ASTS ARE UN­LIKELY TO RECOG­NISE THE NAME ‘BAADE 152’. Yet, this jet air­liner — de­vel­oped in the 1950s by VEB Flugzeug­w­erke in Dres­den, East Ger­many — has a fas­ci­nat­ing story to tell. It be­gins with Brunolf Baade, one of the most tal­ented yet un­sung Ger­man air­craft en­gi­neers of the last cen­tury. Born in Ber­lin in 1904, Baade be­gan his aero­nau­ti­cal ca­reer with Bay­erische Flugzeug­w­erke in Bavaria, work­ing along­side the leg­endary Willy Messer­schmitt.

After a spell in Amer­ica, Baade joined the de­sign of­fice of the Junkers com­pany, where he worked on the Ju-88 light bomber and its suc­ces­sors, the Ju-188 and Ju-388. He was a key fig­ure in de­vel­op­ing one of the most rad­i­cal air­craft of the Sec­ond World War — the Junkers Ju 287 four-en­gined jet bomber with swept-for­ward wings. But time was not on Baade’s side; the war ended be­fore his de­sign flew.

The Junkers works at Des­sau on the east side of Ber­lin came un­der Rus­sian con­trol, and in 1946, Baade and other key en­gi­neers were forcibly moved by the Sovi­ets to Pod­berezye near Moscow. There, they were in­structed to con­tinue de­vel­op­ing the Junkers de­sign to cre­ate the OKB-1 jet bomber. That air­craft — now with con­ven­tion­ally swept wings — made its maiden flight in 1952, but the pro­ject was sub­se­quently can­celled.





Baade, how­ever, per­suaded the Sovi­ets to re­de­velop the OKB-1 as a state-of-the-art jet air­liner, to demon­strate the prow­ess of the newly formed com­mu­nist Ger­man Demo­cratic Repub­lic. A key part of the deal was the re­lo­ca­tion of Baade and his fel­low en­gi­neers, along with their fam­i­lies, back to East Ger­many. The au­thor­i­ties agreed. In 1954, the en­gi­neers re­turned home, es­tab­lish­ing VEB Flugzeug­w­erke at the Klotzsche air­field on the out­skirts of Dres­den.

VEB soon rolled out their new jet air­liner, the Baade 152, which made its maiden flight on 4th De­cem­ber 1958. Although other jet air­lin­ers, such as the de Hav­il­land Comet, Sud Avi­a­tion Car­avelle and Boe­ing 707, were al­ready in ser­vice, the Baade 152 of­fered some rad­i­cal new ideas, with its 26.3m wing lo­cated high on the deep fuse­lage and two un­der­wing pods hous­ing two en­gines each.

Even more un­usual was its tan­dem land­ing gear, with the nose and main wheels lo­cated on the fuse­lage cen­tre­line, with wing tip-mounted sta­bil­i­sa­tion wheels. At the time, this weight-sav­ing de­sign had al­ready been seen on mil­i­tary jets such as the Boe­ing B-47 and B-52, but had never been used be­fore — or since — on a civil­ian air­liner.

Four months after the maiden flight, on 4th March 1959, the Baade 152 pro­to­type made its sec­ond flight. It would also

be its last. The pi­lots com­pleted the flight test and be­gan to de­scend into a low pass for a filming crew when the air­craft en­tered a steep dive. The air­craft crashed about six kilo­me­tres from the air­field, killing all four on board. The cause of the crash re­mains a con­tro­ver­sial de­bate to­day.

It was a bit­ter blow to East Ger­man pres­tige, but not yet the end. A sec­ond pro­to­type was built, making its maiden flight the fol­low­ing year, and con­struc­tion be­gan on pro­duc­tion air­craft for the na­tional air­line, In­ter­flug. How­ever, East­ern-Bloc pol­i­tics again in­ter­vened, with the Soviet Union re­quir­ing that the air­line buy Rus­sian Tupolev air­lin­ers in­stead. The VEB pro­duc­tion line and the partly built air­craft were dis­man­tled, with the en­gines be­ing re­al­lo­cated for use in war­ships and power sta­tions.

One hull, con­struc­tion num­ber 11, sur­vived and was found in 1995 be­ing used as a chicken coop. It was moved to Dres­den air­port and re­stored by EADS EFW (Elbe Flugzeug­w­erke GmbH), the di­rect suc­ces­sor of VEB. It is a fit­ting re­minder of the skill and for­ti­tude of Brunolf Baade and his 300 fel­low en­gi­neers and their fam­i­lies, for whom the 152 pro­ject meant a ticket back home.

Brunolf Baade died on 5th Novem­ber 1969 in Ber­lin.


Images cour­tesy of Air­bus Group un­less oth­er­wise stated Im­age by SchiDD


The pre­served cock­pit of a Baade 152 air­craft

Im­age by SchiDD


The last re­main­ing air­craft hull of the 152 at Dres­den Air­port

Im­age by Night­flyer Im­age by Kolos­sos

LEFT A jet en­gine of a Baade 152 on dis­play at the Dres­den Trans­port Museum Cock­pit hull #11, pre­vi­ously res­cued from a fate as a chicken coop, on dis­play at Dres­den Air­port

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