YouTube – Heinkel He-178
26 ft. 4 in.
23 ft. 3 in.
The Heinkel He-178 was the world’s first jet powered aircraft. The aircraft was a prototype used to test the practicality of turbojet engine power.
Erich Warsitz, after piloting the Heinkel He-178 on its first test flight, observed that although the aircraft had a good top speed, turbine run-up was relatively slow. There was minimal initial thrust, and that was of concern to Warsitz.
However, once the aircraft got moving, its acceleration increased exponentially. The Heinkel He-178 performed so well that its initial flight was extended beyond one circuit of the airfield as originally planned.
Although the landing speed was fast, resulting in almost the entire runway being used before the aircraft could be brought to a halt, it was well controlled. Overall it was a very successful first flight.
While the first Heinkel He-178 test flight was a success, the German government was not enthusiastic about producing such an aircraft. Their primary concerns were its poor acceleration and the dependability of its power plant.
RC Heinkel He-178
Pictured above is the RC Heinkel He-178 scratch built by Bruce Grey. We received the following email from him:
“Just surfing the web and have stumbled on to your website. I found the video and photo of the RC Heinkel He-178. The Length is 1.57 metres (62 inches) and wingspan of 1.8 metres (71 inches). Take off weight of 21 lbs. Landing weight approximately 18 lbs. It was powered by a JJ-1200 Mk2 mini turbine. Only flew 11 times and although still serviceable/in one piece, it now has been stripped of it’s engine and radio gear.”
We asked Bruce why he chose such a rare subject to model. This is what he said: “I guess the early jets fascinate me. Anything after about the mid 1950s gets a bit too brutish (if there is such a word) or in my mind they don’t have any class. Also to build something that others haven’t was appealing, everyone wants an F16 and so forth. I could, for a short time, re-live the pioneering dream, so to speak, and imagine what it must have been like for Hans Von Ohain and the Heinkel team starting from scratch.”
We also wanted to know how the RC Heinkel He-178 was to fly. His answer: “How did it fly? Very well. Heavy and at times under powered, but stable in the air. I was always cautious of structural failure so never did aerobatics. I think I only ever did one or two low stress barrel rolls.”
And, why did he fly his RC Heinkel He-178 only eleven times? “Only 11 times, because I’m more of an model engineer than a flier. Certainly enjoy flying models, but the build challenge is greater, so after it flew a few times I’d achieved what I set out to do. Another huge fact was that it was very unstable when on the ground. There’s a very good reason why they put nose wheels on jet aircraft. They tend to want to spin around and changes ends like a skyrocket without a tail stick attached or perhaps try pushing a pencil from one end at 50 kph, it certainly wants to switch ends. It would have been only a matter of time before I had a serious accident with it.
Incidentally I built a second RC Heinkel He-178 with fixed undercarriage. I thought I applied all the lessons learned from the first, however, it was worse on the ground than the one you have pictures of. Lighter in weight and flew better. It was so dangerous on the ground that on it’s fourth takeoff run it spun out of control and hit a friends model plane, thus damaging both beyond economical repair. I believe Erich Warsitz had to use heavy differential braking to keep it going straight on the ground. Propeller aircraft don’t suffer the same as they have prop wash going over the fin and rudder all the time.
Lutz Warsitz is the son of the original test pilot for this aircraft and now lives in Switzerland. He has written a book about his father and also created a website, you can see this at www.firstjetpilot.com. If you give it a month or so, I think Lutz is putting some movie footage of my Heinkel on his site.”
Bruce tells us that an article about his building of the model was published in Airborne Magazine of Australia, and later Jet Power and Jet International.