Snippets of History – Big, Baade & Not Very Beautiful

vwc-logoThis article is the property of  Vintage Wings of Canada (VWC) an organisation dedicated to bring well researched stories to everyone interested in historic aircraft and events.   It is reproduced here with the kind permission of the author, Dave O’Malley, and it presents a fascinating aviation story outside of our usual field of Naval Aviation – that is,  the struggle by East Germany to resurrect its once proud aerospace industry and how it failed.

You can become a “Friend” of VWC at no cost, or a Member for a fee.  Click here to see details.  You can also access many of their other articles of history here


The Baade 152

By Dave O’Malley

The Second World War was won by the Allies. Of that there is no doubt. It was not because the Allies were more capable, had better equipment or were more courageous, though they held a higher moral position and a determination born of justice. It was simply a numbers game. A game that the Germans and the Japanese should never have set in motion.

In the end the Allies simply had more equipment and ordnance to expend. They had a continuously refreshed supply line of ships, tanks, aircraft, field weapons, ammunition, fuel and trained men and women. This supply line, fed by the gargantuan military industrial complex of North America, was, save for the threat of U-boats, largely safe from being cut off.

We look back at the processing of the war and we proudly and rightly recognize the role that certain great Allied aircraft designs played in the ultimate victory—the P-51 Mustangs, B-17 Flying Fortresses, Supermarine Spitfires, Handley-Page Halifaxes, Avro Lancasters, Chance Vought Corsairs and Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmoviks of this period in history. These are of course some of the most important aircraft designs of all time and we can sing the praises of the roles they played. Of this there is no doubt.

While these winged executors of the war can claim to be the greatest and certainly the victorious aircraft of their day, I believe it may be safe to say that the Germans, whether it be through ingenuity, experience or exigency, well and truly held the lead until the last day of the war as the most advanced aerodynamicists, aircraft designers and creative aviation thinkers in the conflict.

When the fires died down and the smoke had cleared away, German airfields, aircraft factories and design office floors were littered with the staggeringly creative output of their incredible minds—fighter jet interceptors, jet bombers, rockets, cruise missiles, “mistel” composites and aircraft of such audacious configuration and leading edge technology and science that Western Allies rushed headlong to capture as much of it and as many of the designers as possible before the Soviets did. It is incredible that such advanced scientific research and technological development was authorized, funded and continuously worked on even as the Soviet Red Army was at the gates of Berlin.

These advanced designs fit into two categories—both of which the West and the East were eager to collect, study and keep from each other. First were those aircraft already in tactical use with the Luftwaffe—the Messerschmitt Me 262s, Me 163s, Arado Ar 234s, V-1 and V-2 rockets and others. These aircraft and missiles were shipped back as war trophies, but the fact is that the science behind them was the real prize. The second group, and perhaps the most important, included many types that were in the late stages of development or on paper still. These included such futuristic types as the Horten Ho IX flying wing and the ramjet delta wing Lippisch P.13a, aircraft that would not be out of place in a Star Wars episode.

The list of futuristic and leading-edge German aircraft designs during and at the end of the Second World War is long indeed—many of which were just on paper. Even so, the ones that did reach prototype or production stages shattered paradigms, pushed boundaries and changed the trajectory of aerospace design for all time. Just a sampling: Left to Right: Top row: Horten Ho 229 Jet Flying Wing, earlier Horten flying wings—Ho IIm and Ho V, Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe; Second Row: Arado Ar 234, Bachem Ba 349 Natter; Third Row: Blohm und Voss Bv 141, Heinkel He 162 Salamander, Vergeltungswaffe V-2 rocket; Bottom row: Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet, Vergeltungswaffe V-1 Flying Bomb, Lippisch DM-1 glider test bed. Photos via internet

The spoils of war—advanced technology. The Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier HMS Reaper transports captured Luftwaffe fighters and reconnaissance aircraft of immediate interest to American designers back to the United States. These aircraft were then ferried to Wright Field, Ohio and Freeman Field, Indiana for test and evaluation. Photo: Royal Navy

The capture and employment of the scientists and designers behind these works of aerospace technology gave a massive intellectual property boost to aircraft science on both sides of the Iron Curtain. It may be apocryphal, but telling regardless, that when President Eisenhower asked how the Russians had gotten Sputnik into orbit around the planet, the response was “Their Germans are better than our Germans.” In the race into space and to advanced aviation-based weapons systems, Germany’s design skills were highly sought after. It doesn’t take a genius or a military historian to figure that most of these aircraft designers and aerospace engineers knew they would be in demand and that most if not all of them wished to be “captured” by the Western Allies rather than the Soviets. Unfortunately, many of Germany’s most celebrated aircraft design and manufacturing companies were headquartered well within what would become Soviet-dominated East Germany—including Junkers in Dessau and Leipzig, Heinkel Flugzeugwerke in Warnemünde, Rostock and Schwerin, Arado Flugzeugwerke in Warnemünde, Bücker Flugzeugbau GmbH in Rangsdorf, Gothaer Waggonfabrik in Gotha, Siebel Flugzeugwerke and Klemm Leichtflugzeugbau GmbH in Halle an der Saale.

Some of the Nazi’s greatest aerospace designers may have been born German and been Nazi party members, but many died of old age as Americans or other Allied nationals. Alexander Lippisch, perhaps the most creative of the Germans, was born in Munich but died in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Blohm und Voss’s Richard Vogt, a Württemburger, lived out his life in Santa Barbara, California. Werner von Braun the great rocket designer, born in Prussia, died in Alexandria, Virginia. Werner Dahm was born in Cologne, but retired to Huntsville, Alabama. Hellmuth Walther died in New Jersey; Kurt Debus in Florida and on and on.

Brunolf Baade, one of Junkers’ aircraft designers, was captured by the Soviet Red Army in April of 1945. Baade was a respected advanced theoretical aircraft designer, who was working with a small team of fellow Junkers designers and engineers under the direction of Dr. Hans Wocke on a jet-powered bomber test bed/prototype called the Junkers Ju 287. Powered by four Jumo turbojets, the prototype featured a revolutionary forward-swept wing set into the scavenged fuselage of a Heinkel He 177 Greif. Rounding out the Frankensteinian aircraft was the tail from a Junkers Ju 388 Störtebeker, the main gear set from a Ju 352 Herkules, and, most oddly, twin nose-gear salvaged from crashed B-24 Liberators. Two of its four engines were mounted underwing and the other two were uniquely attached to the forward fuselage.

Working throughout the war with Junkers, Baade was, along with Dr. Hans Wocke, involved in the development of one of the strangest aircraft of the Second World War—the Junkers Ju 287. First flown in August of 1944, the Ju 287 was realistically a flying test bed for a new four-engined jet bomber concept. While the forward-swept wing was unique, the rest of the aircraft was built from scavenged components of other aircraft (the fuselage of a Heinkel He 177, the tail of a Ju 388, main landing gear from a Ju 352 and nose wheels from crashed USAAF B-24 Liberators). The wing design gave increased lift at slower speeds—a critical period in the flight envelope, when the early Jumo turbojets were slow to respond to the throttle. In the lower image, the three Jumos are joined with three RATO (Rocket-Assisted takeoff) bottles to assist in takeoff. As weird as it looked, the aircraft proved to have some good handling qualities and some future promise, but was developed too late to make an impact on the outcome of war. The first prototype was destroyed in a bombing raid at the Luftwaffe’s test facility at Rechlin. The second and third prototypes were nearly finished when captured by the Soviet Red Army in April 1945, along with Baade and his fellow engineers. The Soviets took over the area in July of 1945 and promised to allow the rebuilding of an East German aeronautical industry. Baade remained and contributed. Photos: Top:, Bottom:

With its forward sweeping wings, weird engine configuration and comical double nose-wheels (salvaged from crashed B-24 Liberators) and spats, the Ju 287 was unique among aircraft of the Second World War. Photo:

It was a strange looking beast indeed, but apparently it flew rather well. The forward-swept wing gave better flight characteristics at slower speeds—a boon to any aircraft which used jet engines that required up to ten seconds to spool up to full power. There were issues with wing warping and aileron distortion at higher speeds, but the aircraft had some degree of promise. The two additional and unfinished prototypes, with purpose-built fuselages and tail assemblies promised better performance, but never got to fly before being captured by the Red Army in April along with Baade and his colleagues.

Baade and numerous other German aircraft designers whose design offices were in the path of the Soviets, ended up as Soviet-sponsored and indentured aircraft designers spread out across various design bureaus. Baade worked as Chief Designer with the Moscow-based OKB-1 (Opytno-Konstrooktorskoye Byuro – Experimental Design Bureau), beginning work in on a hybrid variation of his Junkers Ju 287 called the EF-131 (EF stood for Entwicklungflugzeu, meaning “development aircraft” in German). The German team from Junkers was press-ganged into working on the captured Ju 287 prototypes with the immediate goal to show it off as a Russian design at the forthcoming 1947 Aviation Day at Tushino Air Base near Moscow. The new design dispensed with the original configuration of engines, opting for an equally unique alternative—two underwing pods, each with three Jumo jet engines. Technical and bureaucratic delays meant that the EF-131 would not be ready for Tushino and the aircraft was stored outside throughout the 1947–48 Russian winter. In the spring, the project was shelved and Baade and his men were instructed to focus on the development of the EF-140, using the airframe from the remaining prototype.

Baade and his designers at OKB-1 turned the Ju 287 into an aircraft that at least looked like it had possibilities. The unfinished prototypes of the Ju 287 were reconfigured as the six-engine EF-131 (upper left) with two pylons, each with three Jumo engines. After the EF-131 program was scrapped, the former Junkers engineers focused on the simpler EF-140 (upper right and bottom) which also had the same forward sweeping wings, classic Junkers crew compartment, pronounced dihedral, all new fuselage and two, more powerful, Klimov engines. The result was a rather attractive if problematic aircraft design. Like all of the aircraft in the Junkers Ju 287 line, it was deemed an interesting but dead-end concept. 

The EF-140 from OKB-1 was a reconnaissance-bomber derived from the second EF-131 prototype, but rather than two pods of three engines, it had two more powerful Klimov (originally Mikulin turbojets) engines on wing-mounted pylons. The aircraft was flight tested at a specially-built airfield near the OKB-1 manufacturing facility for the simple reason that its German designers and test pilots were not granted security clearance to visit Soviet test facilities around Moscow. The EF-140 suffered from severe wing vibration, and the second heavier prototype held less promise when the soviets scrapped the entire Ju 287-inspired hybrid project. Baade then led a design team working on an entirely new design for a jet-powered, swept-wing bomber called the OKB-1 150. Work began in earnest in 1948 and, as Wikipedia explains: “As with the earlier project, progress was hampered by the inconsistent nature of support from the Soviets when it came to obtaining materials and permitting the German expatriates the freedom necessary to develop and test the aircraft effectively. By 1951 the OKB-1 150 had been developed into a heavy bomber with a range of approximately 1,500 km and a bomb capacity of around only 600 kg, but in 1952 this project, too, was abandoned as resources were again reprioritized.”

The underlying concept for the Baade 152 was based on Brunolf Baade’s last military design—the OKB-1 “150”, a jet bomber from the early 1950s. This aircraft was developed in the Soviet Union using experienced German aircraft designers like Baade, who was the design chief at OKB-1 (Opytno-Konstrooktorskoye Byuro – Experimental Design Bureau). Wikipedia picks up the story: “Despite the high priority given to the actual aircraft, progress was slow during the design and construction phases due, in no small part, to the low priority given to the foreign OKB-1 for resources. Baade was in constant contact with the ‘powers that be’ defending the slow progress but falling short of blaming the paranoid administration system. As well as the bureaucratic setbacks, the aircraft had a steady stream of system and structural failures which needed to be addressed before the aircraft could fly. Flight trials finally began in September 1952, but progressed slowly due to the weather and rectifying the defects discovered during the trials. The seventeenth flight on 9 May 1953 proved to be the last, when the pilot Yakov Vernikov misjudged the flare on landing, the aircraft ballooned and stalled into the runway from approximately 10m. Extensive but repairable damage was caused, but the ‘150’ was never repaired, with test rigs, airframe components, and other parts dispersed to other OKBs. OKB-1 was disbanded and the German engineers were repatriated to the German Democratic Republic.” Photos: Top via; bottom:

All this time, the Germans had been held in a compound near Moscow and the East German aircraft manufacturing industry had been essentially banned from developing new projects. Baade and his colleagues languished under the “hospitality” of the Soviets until after Stalin’s death in 1953. Late in that year, Baade received agreement from the Soviet military to develop the abandoned 150 project into a jet-powered airliner. Baade and his fellow engineers were allowed to go home in 1954 and in 1955 the ban on East German aircraft manufacturing was finally lifted. Armed with permission to turn a heavy bomber into an airliner, Baade began the process of regenerating the once dominant East German aircraft industry. It would not end well.

The aircraft which would lead the rebirth of a nation’s industrial pride was called the Baade 152 or alternately the Dresden 152 or even the VLDDR 152. No doubt, the 152 numeral was a nod to its Soviet-sponsored progenitor.

The aircraft would be built at new facilities in Dresden as part of the Volkseigener Betrieb (VEB) system of industrialized enterprise. VEBs, essentially publicly-owned industrial companies, were formed after wholesale nationalization of East German industry. Some VEBs, such as VEB Flugzeugwerke where the Baade 152 was to be built, came into being when the Soviets handed back control of some 33 enterprises that had previously been taken for war reparations.  To get the ball rolling for the rebirth of the East German aircraft industry, VEB Flugzeugwerke in Dresden began building Ilyushin Il-14 Crate transports under licence. While the Il-14 program proceeded in vast new facilities at the Dresden Airport, Baade and his team began the design, drawings, wind tunnel testing and manufacture of the Baade 152. Such was their eagerness to get back in the game and their confidence in Baade and his staff, that the VEB and indeed the German Democratic Republic just didn’t proceed with one or two prototypes; they actually opened up the entire assembly line and commenced building as many as twenty of the large airliner before confirming its capabilities through flight testing or learning about its likely technical teething problems. It was full speed ahead to put East Germany back in the aerospace game.

The Baade 152 was named after its designer, Brunolf Baade (centre), a German aircraft designer who worked with Bavarian Aircraft Works (BFW) and then Messerschmitt in the late 1920s, assisting in the design of the M.18, M.20 and M.24 single-engine passenger aircraft series. Baade then spent a few years in the United States before the war, working for aircraft manufacturers such as North American and Goodyear as well as Fokker. Before the war started, he returned to Germany and went to work for Junkers where he worked until the end of the war. He was involved in the design development of a series of Junkers military aircraft from the ubiquitous Ju 88 to the really strange Ju 287 four-engined jet bomber. The other two men are Ferdinand Brandner (left) and Günther Bock. Brandner, an aerospace designer and SS Standartenführer (Colonel) during the war, was the designer of the Kuznetsov NK.12, the most powerful turboprop engine ever built and which powers the famous Tupolev Tu-95 Bear strategic bomber. He oversaw the development of the Pirna 014 engines which were to power the Baade 152. Bock, another German aeronautical engineer, was the director of the “Deutschen Versuchsanstalt für Luftfahrt” (the East German Institute for Aeronautics). Photo:

In hindsight, the Baade 152, an extreme adaptation of an already cancelled project seems like a poor choice for leading the German aircraft industry out of the wilderness, but Baade and his design team must have been very persuasive. Just as the Baade 152 assembly hall was building its jigs and tooling up to build Brunolf’s untested aircraft in numbers, Western and Soviet designers were already launching purpose-built jet-powered passenger aircraft. The gorgeous de Havilland Comet 4 was finally dispelling fears brought about by the Comet 1’s early metal fatigue tragedies. The sleek Tupolev Tu-104 had just made its first flight and would become the world’s first jet airliner to enter uninterrupted service—the Comet having been taken out of service for a couple of years. In France, the piscine Sud Caravelle had just made its first flight. These three aircraft were important, built in respectable numbers and they were beautiful, but it was in Seattle, Washington in July 1954 that the Boeing 367-80 made its first official flight and changed everything.

The “Dash 80”, as it was called, heralded a revolution in airline travel and spoke to the efficiency, the speed, the beauty and the glamour of the coming jet age. Only one was built, but when Boeing was certain of its guaranteed success, it went into production in 1957 as the 707. The production line would operate for more than two decades, producing more than 1,000 aircraft.

A tough act to follow. Everything about the Boeing 367-80 exuded promise, glamour and revolution—from her sleek tail to her dolphinlike nose. These lines would define airliner design for decades. Photo: Boeing

Even its paint scheme was evocatively modern, breaking a longstanding paradigm of the “cheatline”. It was an aircraft that both inspired the world and raised the bar so high that aviation designers worldwide scrambled to find ways to best it. And so it was into this world of beautiful, inspiring and proven jet-powered winners that Brunolf Baade and VEB Flugzeugwerke worked hard to give birth to an aircraft they hoped would match those aircraft already out of the gate.

The Baade 152 featured the same shoulder mounted swept wing as the OKB-1 150 as well as its tandem centre line landing gear bogies and wingtip outrigger stabilizers. The production aircraft was to be powered by an entirely new engine—the Pirna 014—designed and to be built in the German Democratic Republic. In October 1956, the Pirna was tested for the first time. The Pirna 014 jet engine and the Baade 152 were officially presented at the Leipzig Spring Fair in March of 1958.

A fanciful and highly airbrushed image of an aircraft that never actually flew. The engine pods (Looking more dominant in this illustration than they were in reality) are similar to those of the 2nd and 3rd prototypes, but the glazed nose is that of the first and ill-fated Baade 152 V-1. Photo:

An Ilyushin Il-14 Crate, licence-built in the German Democratic Republic, was the flying test bed for a scaled mock-up of the Baade 152’s horizontal stabilizers. This same Il-14 Crate (DM-ZZB) is preserved in Interflug livery at the airport in Reichenbach, Germany. Photo:

In the May Day parade in the spring of 1958, a float featured a model the Baade 152 dramatically posed over a globe and the Northern Hemisphere. The big jet was in stark contrast with the horse drawn float following. 

Even before its public debut, the Baade 152 represented the modernization of East German technology and manufacturing… perhaps this stamp was a bit premature.

At the enormous Spring Leipzig Trade Fair in early March 1958, VIPs are given an up-close view of the Pirna 014 turbojet engines which were designed for the Baade 152. The fair, a yearly event since 1165, was renamed the Peace Fair in 1946 and showcased the industrial production of East Germany, fellow socialist countries and even western nations. In 1958, there were 9,600 exhibitors from 43 countries. Photo: Wikipedia

The fuselage of the first prototype Baade 152 Dresden is suspended from overhead cranes of the VEB (Volkseigener Betrieb) Flugzeugwerke factory in Dresden. In many of the promotional photographs from her development, there always seems to be a group of trench-coated VIPs getting a tour. Photo: Catawiki

The first prototype (DM-YZA) nears completion in the jigs at VEB Flugzeugwerke. From above, the aircraft looked considerably more attractive. The vertical stabilizer in the bottom left of this photograph belongs to an Ilyushin Il-14 Crate, an aircraft which appears in several photos of the Baade 152. The Crate was licence-built at the same facility under the designation VEB.14. Photo:

The first Baade 152 prototype (DM-ZYA) stands in the VEB Flugzeugwerke assembly hall while VIPs mill about the floor. The aircraft being worked on at the bottom right is an Ilyushin Il-14 Crate, a Soviet design built under licence at the same factory. The Il-14 and Il-14P transports manufactured in East Germany were designated as VEB.14s and VEB.14Ps. The East German air force operated 30 Crates, 19 of which were constructed in Dresden. Photo:

Though the Pirna was first tested in 1956, it was not going to be ready for the first test flights of the Baade 152, scheduled for later in 1958. In fact, the first prototype was redesigned to accommodate four Soviet-designed Tumansky turbojets. VEB Flugzeugwerke and the East German government had hoped for a public “rollout” presentation of the Baade 152 on May Day of 1958. In order to achieve this, the V-1 prototype had only empty engine pods with intakes covered by red inlet plugs.

The rollout of the Baade 152 was a massive propaganda affair. The day was 30 April 1958. Photographs show thousands in attendance listening to speeches from massive dais with scores of political VIPs backed by a triumphant Russian Constructivist mural trumpeting the glorious rebirth of East German industry under communist rule. There were television crews in attendance, a large choir and orchestra and ranks of smartly dressed East German soldiers.

While the orchestra played, a red tractor slowly and dramatically pulled the all-aluminum Baade 152 Dresden from the depths of the voluminous VEB Flugzeugwerke hangar and assembly hall. Once clear of the hall, the tractor detached and left the big, mostly-complete aircraft standing alone while the doors were closed behind it. There it stood, alone, for all to admire and gaze upon while politicians extolled its virtues and those of communist life from the dais. The first prototype differed from subsequent prototypes and production models in that it had rather large glazing across its nose, meant to provide navigators with a view forward. As wonderful as this would be for a navigator, it was too expensive, no longer needed and made the jet seem old fashioned. The rollout Baade 152 would be the only airframe to have this feature.

The following day was May Day and the VEB Flugzeugwerke ramp was opened to the general public. Thousands thronged to see the massive Baade 152 which stood in front of the closed hangar doors of the assembly building. It must have been a day of enormous pride for the German people and especially Brunolf Baade, a statement that said they were back in the game.

As finished as the Baade 152 appeared to be to the general public, it was still a long way from being flyable. It would take an additional seven months of development and testing before the aircraft was ready for its first flight.

To the accompaniment of an orchestra, the Baade 152 is pulled on stage by a tractor in Dresden on Wednesday, 30 April 1958. The choice of April 30th is clear—the next day was May Day, the great holiday celebrated by communist regimes worldwide. The red inlet plugs are in place to cover the fact that the aircraft was rolled out without its four Pirna 014 turbojet engines… or any engines for that matter. The first flight would not occur for another seven months, and with engines other than those with which it was designed to be powered. Photo:

As hangar doors begin closing behind her, the Baade 152 stands proudly at her coming-out party, flanked by formations of military men and VIPs. Clearly this was a big moment in East Germany’s attempt to re-establish its once-great aviation industry. This photo gives us a great view of the strange tandem landing gear configuration and the excellent visibility forward provided the navigator sitting in the nose. Rather than give the sense of speed, the blue painted “cheatlines” serve only to emphasize the big blunt nose of the Baade 152. The symbol on the blue cheatline just aft of the nose glazing is the logo of VEB Flugzeugwerke Dresden. Photo: Bundesarchiv

With the hangar doors now shut behind her, the tug released and the band at ease, it is likely that it’s time for some speeches from dignitaries. The men at left sitting in lawn chairs are part of a television crew filming the event. Photo: Bundesarchiv

Perhaps it’s shallow to even consider the way an aircraft is presented, but this was a very big day in the short life of the Baade 152. Nearly three years previously the Boeing 367-80 had been presented to the world in a paint scheme reminiscent of the great Raymond Loewy, one that remains a classic to this very day. Here, in communist East Germany, the Baade 152 sports an uninspiring even amateurish livery. But, in a paranoid society far beyond the borders of style, perhaps this was the height of design.

In a view taken from the top of the VEB Flugzeugwerke Dresden hangar at about the same moment as the previous photograph, we see the mass of VEB employees and general public who turned out to witness the rebirth of the once-great East German aircraft industry. In addition to the orchestra, the rollout included a small choir (in the stands at left in white shirts) and was quite possibly televised live. Photo:

Following its public debut on 30 April 1958, VEB Flugzeugwerke employees inspect the Baade 152. Photo:

On May Day, 1958, the day after its official rollout, the Baade 152 is presented to spectators young and old, eager to see the powerful new image of a rejuvenated East German aviation industry. In this photo, we see just how high the Baade 152 stands on its centre line tandem gear. Photo:

The simple and very well-organized control panel and throttle quadrant of the Baade 152. Judging by the debris on the floor, this photo was taken during fit-up or possibly much later on inside the one surviving hull. Photo:

The planned interior of the Baade 152—decidedly roomy if utilitarian in an Eastern Bloc sort of fashion. It is not known whether this interior was built in the second prototype of if this was a mock-up (likely). Photo:

From atop the VEB Flugzeugwerke hangar in Dresden we see the first prototype (DM-ZYA) under tow to the runway for a test flight. Photo:

A close-up of the cockpit and navigator’s position of the first prototype as it moves toward the runway. Photo:

A photographer standing on the roof of the VEB hangar captures the Baade 152 being pushed out onto the ramp at Dresden. Of all the angles for photos, it seems the Baade looked best from above. Photo:

In the winter of 1958–59, arm-banded VIPs get a close-up look at the starboard engine pod, which was originally designed to house two of the Baade’s Pirna 014 turbojets, each rated with approximately 7,000 lbs of thrust. From the configuration of the inlets, this is clearly the first prototype, which did not have its Pirna turbojets installed, but rather Tumansky DR.9 engines (similar to those found in MiG-19s). The Pirna 014, which was being developed for the Baade, was not ready to be flight-tested for another nine months, even though the first test run had been three years earlier. The only aviation use of the Pirna was with the second prototype Baade 152 (though one was mounted under the belly of an Ilyushin Il-28 Beagle for testing), but the engines found wider use on East German Volksmarine vessels. Photo:

VEB Flugzeugwerke Dresden pretty well constituted the entirety of the East German aircraft industry in the 1950s, developing and building the Baade 152, its Pirna 014 engines and licence building soviet designs. In 1961, when the Baade and other VEB projects were discontinued, the Pirna engines that were already produced at VEB Industriewerke Ludwigsfelde were put to other uses, including emergency power generators and gas-turbine components for East German Navy ships. Photo:

The first prototype (V-1) on the rainy and foggy taxiway in Dresden. Photo:

The Baade 152 prototype, with four Tumansky engines installed in lieu of the Pirna 014s, sits on the ramp at Dresden. Photo:

Company gawkers on bicycles check out the progress on the first prototype Baade 152 on the ramp at Dresden. Photo:

On a cold, crisp Thursday morning on 4 December 1958, pilot Willi Lehmann and co-pilot Kurt Bemme along with flight engineers George Eismann and Paul Heerling strapped themselves into their positions aboard the big silver airliner. When everything was set, Bemme fired up the four Soviet-built Tumansky RD-9 turbojets and the ship began to shriek like a banshee. After all items on the checklist were done and green-lighted, Lehmann pushed the throttles and the Baade 152 trundled out to the active runway. Waiting for just a moment at the threshold, Lehmann pushed the throttles to takeoff power and the ship thundered down the runway, lifting off into the East German skies and a hopeful future—two years later than originally planned. The delays had been as much about politics and materials prioritization as with technical problems. It was a great moment for East German aviation, albeit a fleeting one. Brunolf Baade must have been conflicted—joyous that his baby was now in the air, but dreadfully nervous about the outcome of the flight.

Lehmann was instructed to leave the landing gear down for the entire flight, which must have limited what they could do. He brought the aircraft back over the airfield before landing after just 35 minutes aloft. Following a smooth landing and a shrieking return to the ramp, the crew was greeted with cheering VEB Flugzeugwerke employees, but the flight was not a public affair. There must have been some serious technical problems discovered during the flight, for the Baade 152 would not fly again for three months. This time it would end very tragically.

The Baade 152 thunders down the runway during takeoff—one of only two that it was able to make. Unfortunately, it only made one landing. No Western commercial aircraft had a similar landing gear configuration (tandem bogies and outriggers), but they could be found on military aircraft such as the USAF’s B-47 Stratojets, B-52 Stratofortresses and Lockheed U-2s as well as British Hawker Siddeley Harriers. From an aesthetic point of view, the thin shape of the engine pod, the oversized mass of the engine pylon and the blunt nose all served to make the Baade rather unattractive and uninspiring. Photo: Wikipedia

Another fine colour shot of the first prototype of the Baade 152 taxiing at Dresden with outriggers keeping her balanced. Photo:

Photographs of the Baade 152 in flight are hard to come by on the web, and when found are usually like these images of the Baade 152 taking off—poor in quality. For a great period Eastern-bloc-style video of the design, construction, rollout and testing of the Baade 152, click here. Photo: Top:; Bottom:

The Baade 152 passes overhead Dresden airport during the 35-minute test flight on 4 December 1958. During this flight, the landing gear was not retracted. Photo:

With flaps down, the Baade 152 prototype comes in for a landing. This is clearly during the first test flight, as the aircraft never landed following its second flight, crashing instead and killing the crew of four. There were 12 weeks between the first and the fatal second flight, indicating to this writer that the first flight highlighted many technical problems with the Baade 152. Photo

VEB Flugzeugwerke engineers and staff welcome back the test flight crew after the first test flight on a chilly 4 December 1958. Co-pilot Kurt Bemme gets a warm reception as he leaves the Baade 152. Photos:

Three months later, on 4 March 1959, Lehmann took the Baade 152 back into the air for a second test flight. His original plan dictated that he was to retract his landing gear and climb to an altitude of 20,000 feet to conduct tests and to collect data. Lehmann was last photographed as he passed overhead of the spectators en route to the test altitude. He was then to bring the airliner back down in steps before landing. At the last minute, a change of plans was made to execute a flyby of the airfield. Apparently this request came from Baade himself to allow for promotional photographs and films to be taken. But it may have been more than that. This time, there was more than just VEB Flugzeugwerke technicians and management observing the flight. In attendance that day was none other than Nikita Khrushchev, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

It is not known what happened exactly as the investigation afterward was short, secretive and inconclusive. Lehmann requested an increase in maximum speed from 500 to 600 kilometres/hour but was denied. The low flypast was a risky thing to do, considering how little they knew about the performance of this aircraft, but Khrushchev was watching and management felt that if he could be impressed, the Baade 152 might live to see full production.

After 55 minutes and at sometime during the descent to the low flypast and about six kilometres from the Dresden airport, the aircraft stalled and crashed into a field, killing all on board. The investigation that followed was cursory at best and the results were made secret by the Ministry of State Security. To this day, only a few details about what happened have come out, but it seems, according to the report, that the Baade 152 entered an aerodynamic stall due to excessive angle of attack. What led to this extreme situation is not certain, but the report, looking for a scapegoat, concluded pilot error. When Lehmann pulled out of a steep descent in preparation for the flyby to impress Khrushchev, his engines were at idle. The Tumansky RD-9s required as many as 15 seconds to spool up to full power from idle and it’s possible that the aircraft, in a high angle of attack, stalled in this interval. The aircraft did not recover before impacting the ground. Later, flights with the second prototype revealed very serious fuel feed problems with the Baade 152, but it is not known for sure whether this had any effect on Lehmann’s situation that led to the catastrophe.

The first prototype flies overhead Dresden-Klotzsche Airport, climbing to an altitude of 20,000 feet on its second and fatal test flight on 4 March 1959. Not long after this photo was taken the aircraft crashed and all on board were killed. Photo:

The remains of the first prototype of the VEB Flugzeugwerke Baade 152-V1 Dresden after its disastrous second test flight on 4 March 1959. During this flight the landing gear was to be raised for the first time. The flight departed at 1255 hrs from Dresden–Klotzsche Airport and climbed to 20,000 feet where a series of flight tests was carried out. The plan was that, while descending back towards Dresden, the flight crew was to add power at 10,000 feet, slow the descent and test the aircraft’s response to power settings. However, the descent was continued without adding power. Instead, the crew requested clearance for an unplanned low pass with gear and flaps up. During the descent the airspeed dropped to a value close to stall speed. At an altitude of about 2,000 feet, the crew lowered the gear down and added power. The engine spool up time was insufficient. The airplane stalled and crashed in a field at an angle of 70 degrees. Although the crash was officially attributed to “pilot error”, it is thought that the fuel flow to the engines stopped while descending towards Klotzsche. This was a recurring problem that was detected on a later test flight with another prototype. Photo:

Such a disaster might have ended another test program, but the German Democratic Republic had more than just money invested in the project. To fail now would mean the failure of the East German aircraft industry to self determine their future. Although the setback staggered the already battered program, Baade and his team fought on. Six months later, a completed Pirna 014 engine was fitted to the underside of an Ilyushin Il-28 Beagle bomber and successfully air tested in East German skies. Things began to have a more positive feeling about them.

In late July of 1960, a year and a half after the fatal crash of the first prototype and the loss of the four men, a second prototype was ready for flight testing. During the two takeoffs and one landing from the previous flights, it was determined that the centre line tandem landing gear and outrigger system was unsuitable for an airliner. One of the reasons for the year and a half delay in the test program was that the new V-2 prototype had an entirely new landing gear system. Now the mains retracted into bays at the rear of the engine pods—still an unsatisfactory compromise forced upon the team as a result of originally choosing to build the airframe around the shoulder-mounted wing of the OKB-1 150.

VEB Flugzeugwerke technicians run up (judging by the man in the lower left distance who seems to be covering his ears) the Pirna 014 engine mounted in a ventral gondola beneath an Il-28 Beagle (reconnaissance/bomber) test platform. The Beagle had a civilian registration (DM-ZZI) and the test engineer for the engine sat where the navigator would normally sit (beneath the open hatch in this image). The navigator moved to a new position behind the pilot. Photo:

A partially complete fuselage of a Baade 152 sits on the ramp outside the VEB Flugzeugwerke Dresden hangar. Not sure what the occasion was… perhaps the fuselage was constructed elsewhere in the factory and was being delivered for final assembly. Photo:

Another shot of the VEB factory manufacturing facility showing at least six partially completed Baade 152s. Photo:

The just-finished and unpainted second or third prototype Baade 152 

A great comparison between the landing gear configuration of the first (top) and second prototypes of the Baade 152. Both systems offered untraditional designs that would likely have been problematic for many reasons. Photo: Bottom:

The VEB Flugzeugwerke Dresden assembly line with two nearly complete airframes and several partially complete airframes in the back and along the sides of the main production line. In all, VEB had had 12 airframes in various states of completion when the program was shut down. All airframes were eventually scrapped except for one fuselage (No. 011), which remains and is presently under long-term restoration by EADS EFW (Elbe Flugzeugwerke GmbH) the direct successor of VEB. It is clear from this image and the facility that East Germany had invested heavily with money, resources and time to re-energize their once highly-regarded aircraft industry. Here we see very clearly the more attractive nose and engine pods housing the Pirna engines. Photo:

The second prototype of the Baade 152 II is set to be towed from the VEB assembly hall and hangar. The airframe was ready for engine testing and flying a year and a half after the tragic second flight of the first prototype. It now has the Pirna engines and new landing gear and the nose glazing has been eliminated. Photo:

The impeccably clean floor of the VEB Flugzeugwerke factory in Dresden with three nearly complete Baade 152s visible, all with the second generation landing gear. Photo:

Ground crew walk the Baade 152 under tow before a test flight. Photo:

The Baade 152 is towed across the Dresden ramp on her entirely new and equally-complicated landing gear configuration—four-wheel bogeys that descend from the engine pods. Photo:

The second prototype of the Baade 152 taxies at Dresden. Almost a year and half has passed since the tragic second flight of the first prototype. Compared to the Baade’s fabulous contemporary, the Boeing 707, it lacked the kind of visual qualities that would inspire the public and even its Soviet clients. At the risk of upsetting my German colleagues and Baade 152 fans, the aircraft was simply ugly. There… I said it. Photo:

A close-up of the engine/landing gear arrangement of the second series of prototype Baade 152s. It seems to this writer that the designers had made a compromise when they determined that the original centreline tandem system did not work. One can’t help but think that a particularly hard landing with the new system and the heavy aircraft would damage considerably more than the gear set. Also, should there be a catastrophic engine failure, it is possible that the landing gear might also suffer damage—not a good thing if an emergency landing was required. It was the choice to build the aircraft with a shoulder-mounted wing (an inherited flaw from the OKB-1 150 heavy bomber) that took wing-housed gear out of the equation. Photo:

The second prototype series (Baade 152 II) had the glazing (the Bugverglasung) removed from the nose in favour of a weather radar and finally, the next prototypes had the Pirna 014 engines installed. On 29 August 1960, a Pirna-powered Baade 152 (DM-ZYB) made its first flight—a cautious 22 minutes. This was followed by another flight the following week, this time for only 20 minutes. These two flights and ensuing ground tests and high speed rolling tests up to 160 km/hr, conducted with another airframe (V-5 DM-ZYC) revealed serious problems with the fuel system which led to fuel starvation issues. By the end of the October 1960, it was clear that the fuel system problems would necessitate a major redesign, resulting in another year-long delay. Also, in early November, they lost their flight approval certificate as a result of these issues. By now, even the latest prototype (Baade II V-5) was already years behind schedule. The aircraft was obsolete on the drawing board when compared to aircraft like the Boeing 707 but now, years later, it didn’t take an aeronautical engineer to see they were fielding a turkey.

In January of 1961, two and a half years after Pan Am had inaugurated transoceanic 707 service, Baade was still fumbling with an increasingly obsolete aircraft—the proverbial white elephant. The potential earliest date for an airworthiness certificate for Deutsche Lufthansa (east) was looking like 1963 and beyond. Then Aeroflot, which had originally committed to purchase 100 Baade 152 aircraft, pulled the plug, deciding to push their own native jet passenger aircraft—the Tupolev Tu-104 and the smaller Tu-124.

Attempts to foist the Baade 152 on African and South American airlines failed and the only commitment was from Deutsche Lufthansa. The 30 machines they had promised to buy would not sustain an economical production line. On 28 February 1961, the Politburo of the German Democratic Republic took the decision to cancel the project and made it public on 17 March.

This meant more than simply the end of the Baade 152. On 31 July, the council of Ministers of the GDR finally dissolved the entire enterprise including the Pirna 014. The fledgling East German aircraft industry was smashed. At a time of great postwar austerity, the Pirna and Baade projects had cost the government two billion GDR Marks by the summer of 1961. The engines were used in electrical generation and on naval vessels, while the remaining airframes, jigs and tools were scrapped almost overnight. Such was the embarrassment to the government that they wanted it all gone. Only one airframe hull (Construction No. 11) somehow avoided the scrapper’s blade and the smelter’s furnace. Whether it is true or not, it is said that when Hull 11 was recovered in 1995 by EADS for restoration, it was being used as a chicken coop.

The destruction of the 152 and the constructed hulls and wings must have been a crushing blow to Brunolf Baade. Here was the chance (in his mind) to have his name associated with the resurrection of East German aviation and pride and a great line of East German aircraft designs possibly extending long into the future. Instead of becoming, like William Boeing, Andrei Tupolev and Geoffrey de Havilland, part of the lexicon of aviation, Baade quietly exited stage left and never designed another aircraft.

Awakening from his “Baade dream”, Brunolf Baade was made Director of the newly created Institute of Lightweight Structures and Economical Use of Materials in Dresden, taking 700 employees from the failed 152 assembly line. The old VEB Flugzeugwerke assembly hall in Dresden was reconfigured to make potato harvesting equipment in the interim. Later in the same hall, racing bicycles and bobsleighs were also manufactured.

Baade retired at age 65 from the Institute in 1969 and died in November of the same year. The Wikipedia entry for Baade sums up his life very eloquently: “There is some consensus between the sources that Baade’s real brilliance lay not so much in his engineering talents as in his personal gifts as a political and institutional fixer. He was an imposing man, capable of great achievements when supported by good technicians and economists.”

A photograph of the second prototype (Baade 152/II V4—DM-ZYB) taking flight. This aircraft flew only twice (26 August and 4 September 1960) for a total of 45 minutes. These two flights were more than a year and a half after the flights of the first prototype. Photo:

The second prototype Baade 152 (DM-ZYB) comes in for a landing after one of its two very short flights. From this angle, I will acknowledge that she looks much better. Photo

It seems that landing gear was a constant problem. Here the second prototype has suffered a nose wheel collapse, likely on its second and last flight. Photo

A period advertisement/poster for the Baade 152 depicts the later variant with Pirna engine pods and landing gear sets.

The great Baade 152 experiment ended as all failed projects end—with the destruction of all built prototypes and production models as well as jigs and tooling. One hull, Construction Number 11, did in fact survive and was apparently found being used as a chicken coop. In 1995, it was moved to Dresden airport and restoration was begun. There is a renewed interest in the Baade 152 in Germany, perhaps not so much for its flying history and potential, but because it was the one and only example of the great East German aircraft industry standing up proudly and pushing back at its Soviet subjugators. Photo: Wikipedia

The Baade 152 survives today only in toy and model form. Here, toys of the Dresden demonstrate one of the first approved outputs of West and East German industry after the Second World war—tin plate toy manufacturing. The larger image appears to be a facsimile of the first Baade 152 prototype, while the inset image is a later model Baade 152. Photo: ChristosV, Wikipedia

The graves of the four lost test crew members are close to the airport where they flew from when they were killed. Along with the deaths of pilots Kurt Emme and Willi Lehmann and flight test engineers Paul Heerling and George Eismann, can be added the death of a great dream. In time, the East German aviation industry would rise to prominence again, but the loss of this aircraft was certainly a hard blow. VEB Flugzeugwerke would continue after the cancellation of the Baade 152 project, but only as a maintenance facility for MiG fighter aircraft and Mil helicopters. After reunification, the company became Elbe Flugzeugwerke GmbH, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the highly respected EADS, employed in major conversions of Airbus aircraft. Photo: Wikipedia