Aviation Pioneers

Who is Hanna Reitsch?

Aviation history includes many pioneering names. These pioneering aviators inspired the people who came after them. There are many women who have come to the fore and achieved firsts in the history of aviation. Let’s take a look at Hanna Reitsch’s life together.

Hanna Reitsch Early Life and Her Records

 Hanna Reitsch (29 March 1912 – 24 August 1979) was the first German woman to win a captain’s license, the first female helicopter pilot, and the first female test pilot in her country. In addition, she was the first German woman to be awarded the Iron Cross (1942).

Reitsch was born in Hirschberg, Silesia. Her father wanted her to be a doctor. However, Hanna was interested in aviation besides, she was studying Medicine. Reitsch started flying in Gliders in 1932. In the same year, she broke the world record in the Women’s Long-Term Flight.

 Wolf Hirth wanted Hanna to be a glider pilot and instructor. That’s why he invited her. Hanna left the medical school in 1933 after this invitation. She set the world record in Women’s High Flight in 1934.

In 1937, Ernst Udet sent Reitsch to the Luftwaffe test center at Rechlin-Lärz Airport. She became the test pilot of Junkers Ju 87 Stuka and Dornier Do 17 on the project. Reitsch became the first female helicopter pilot and one of the few pilots to operate a Focke-Achgelis Fa 61 helicopter.

Hanna Reitsch During War

Hanna became one of the symbols of the Nazi Party, which was in power in Germany at that time. Later, at the Berlin Motor Show in 1938, she used the FW 61 helicopter at Deutschlandhalle and made a night flight.

Hanna served in the Air Force from 1939 and became a test pilot. During the winter of 1943-1944 she was assigned to develop suicide planes under the command of Otto Skorzeny.

During the last days of the war, all the powers of Hermann Göring, head of the Luftwaffe, were withdrawn by Hitler. General Robert Ritter von Greim became the new commander of the Luftwaffe. Flying above Berlin from low altitude with long flight experience, Reitsch landed her plane on an airstrip in Tiergarten, near the Brandenburg Gate. During the landing on the runway, Red Army soldiers fired at the plane, and Hanna was wounded in the leg.

Hanna Reitsch
Hanna Reitsch

After War

Hanna was a very devoted soldier to Hitler. She was one of the last persons to see Adolf Hitler alive in the underground bunker in Berlin. Her plane was the last German plane to exit Berlin before the city fell under heavy Soviet anti-aircraft fire. After that she was captured by the U.S. Army and interned for 15 months. During these period she gave detailed testimony of Hitler’s personality.

On May 24, 1945, her lover, Air Force Commander Von Greim, committed suicide. Hanna’s father, on the other hand, was expelled from Germany by the Poles in the final days of the war. Her father had killed her mother, sister and her sister’s children before was expelled.