Open Cock­pit

Pilot - - CONTENTS - Steve Slater Stephen is CEO of the Light Air­craft As­so­ci­a­tion, Vice-chair of the Gen­eral Avi­a­tion Aware­ness Coun­cil, flies a Piper Cub and spent seven years help­ing re­store the ‘Big­gles Bi­plane’ 1914 BE2C replica

The man who al­most made a name for him­self

Even the most ar­dent air­craft his­to­rian might be for­given for not recog­nis­ing the Baade 152. The failed 1950s Eastern bloc air­liner built at Dres­den in East Ger­many never car­ried any pay­ing pas­sen­gers, yet it will go down in his­tory as the jet that brought sev­eral hun­dred Ger­man engi­neers back home.

The story be­gins with Brunolf Baade, one of the most tal­ented yet un­sung Ger­man air­craft engi­neers of the last cen­tury. Baade was born in Ber­lin in 1904 and, af­ter grad­u­at­ing from the city’s Tech­ni­cal Col­lege, ini­tially worked in ship­build­ing at Blohm + Voss in Ham­burg, cre­at­ing de­signs for the liner Wasken­land, be­fore mov­ing into aero­nau­ti­cal work with Bay­erische Fluzeug­w­erke in Bavaria, work­ing along­side the leg­endary Willi Messer­schmitt.

Baade could eas­ily have de­signed for ei­ther side in the loom­ing war. Be­tween 1930 and 1935 he worked in Amer­ica for com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Goodyear, Eastern Air­craft, North Amer­i­can Avi­a­tion, and the US sub­sidiary of the Fokker Com­pany. How­ever, he was al­ready a card-car­ry­ing Nazi and elected to re­turn to his fa­ther­land, where he joined the de­sign of­fice of the Junkers com­pany to work on the Ju 88 light bomber and its suc­ces­sors, the Ju 188 and Ju 388.

In 1945, he be­came a key fig­ure in de­vel­op­ing one of the most rad­i­cal air­craft of WWII, the Junkers Ju 287 four-en­gined jet bomber, with swept-for­ward wings, two for­ward fuse­lage-mounted jets and two more on un­der-wing py­lons. De­spite its un­con­ven­tional ap­pear­ance the pro­to­type ap­par­ently flew well, but Ger­many was by then crum­bling and in May 1945 Baade was ar­rested and in­ter­ro­gated by the US Army be­fore the Amer­i­cans handed the re­mains of the Junkers works at Des­sau, on the east side of Ber­lin, to Rus­sian con­trol.

In 1946, Baade and other key engi­neers were forcibly moved to Rus­sia, to Pob­derezye near Moscow. They were in­structed to con­tinue the de­vel­op­ment of the Junkers de­sign to cre­ate the OKB-1 jet bomber. The air­craft (now with more con­ven­tion­ally swept-back wings) made its maiden flight in 1952, but its en­gines strug­gled to de­liver the re­quired thrust and had poor fuel con­sump­tion, so the project was can­celled.

Baade had be­come the leader of the re­lo­cated Ger­man engi­neers and he per­suaded the Sovi­ets to re­de­velop the OKB-1 as a state-of-the-art jet air­liner, to demon­strate the prow­ess of the new­ly­formed Ger­man Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic. He also made the case that it made poor sense hold­ing the 300-plus Ger­man aero­nau­ti­cal engi­neers and their fam­i­lies in a vil­lage north of Moscow, when they were go­ing to cre­ate a new tech­ni­cal show­case for the GDR. He struck a deal to re­lo­cate him­self and his con­tem­po­raries to East Ger­many, and in 1954 the engi­neers went home, es­tab­lish­ing VEB Flugzeug­w­erke at the Klotsche air­field on the out­skirts of Dres­den. Thus, even be­fore it had flown, the Baade 152 man­aged to bring its cre­ators home.

In a record two-and-a-half-years from scratch, VEB rolled out its new jet, the Baade 152 mak­ing its maiden flight on 4 De­cem­ber 1958. While 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 swept wing lo­cated high on the deep fuse­lage and its four en­gines mounted in two un­der­wing pods of two en­gines each. Even more un­usual was its tan­dem un­der­car­riage, with the nose- and main­wheels lo­cated on the fuse­lage cen­tre­line with wingtip-mounted sta­bil­i­sa­tion wheels. This weight-sav­ing de­sign was used on some mil­i­tary jets such as the Boe­ing B-47 and B-52, but the con­fig­u­ra­tion has never been used be­fore or since on a civil­ian air­liner.

Four months af­ter its maiden flight, on 4 March 1959, the Baade 152 pro­to­type made its sec­ond, and what would prove to be its fi­nal flight.

The orig­i­nal plan was to climb to 20,000 feet. How­ever, among the spec­ta­tors that day was none other than Nikita Khrushchev, First Sec­re­tary of the Com­mu­nist Party of the Soviet Union. In his hon­our a change of plan was made to in­cor­po­rate a fly-by. Un­for­tu­nately, some­thing went dra­mat­i­cally wrong in the de­scent and the air­craft crashed about six kilo­me­tres from the air­field killing all on board−pos­si­bly due to a mal­func­tion in the fuel tanks in­ter­rupt­ing fuel flow in the steep nose-down at­ti­tude.

It was a bit­ter blow to East Ger­man pres­tige but not the end. A sec­ond pro­to­type was built, mak­ing its maiden flight on 29 Au­gust 1960, and con­struc­tion be­gan on pro­duc­tion air­craft for the na­tional air­line, In­ter­flug. But Eastern bloc pol­i­tics once again in­ter­vened, with the Soviet Union re­quir­ing that the air­line buy Rus­sian Tupolev air­lin­ers. The VEB pro­duc­tion line and the part-built air­craft were dis­man­tled, with the en­gines be­ing re­al­lo­cated for use in war­ships and power sta­tions.

One fuse­lage, con­struc­tion num­ber 11, sur­vived and was found in 1995 be­ing used as a chicken coop. Its restora­tion was un­der­taken by EADS EFW (Elbe Flugzeug­w­erke Gmbh), the di­rect suc­ces­sor of VEB, which to­day spe­cialises in Air­bus freighter and tanker air­craft con­ver­sions. The sole-sur­viv­ing Baade 152 is now pre­served at the Verkehrsmu­seum at Dres­den Air­port. 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 home from Rus­sia to their na­tive Ger­many.

Baade could eas­ily have de­signed for ei­ther side...

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