Hans Joachim Pabst von Ohain
Dr. von Ohain’s courteous demeanor – bowing, shaking hands, exceptional punctuality – belied his impatience to get on with a task. When mildly irritated, he would say to the offender, “I forgive you,” and this phrase became an office joke.
- In 1935, he developed a theory of turbo jet engines and then built a working model and patented it in 1936.
- Designed and produced a successful liquid-fueled engine Hes.3B and it was installed in the HC-178 airplane. The first flight of a turbojet-powered aircraft was made on August 27th, 1939 and led Germany to develop jet airplanes.
- Came to the U.S. in 1947 as a research scientist at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
- Conducted a survey study of trends and research objectives in the field of energy conversion and propulsion.
- Was appointed Chief Scientist of the Aerospace Research Laboratories and in 1975 became chief scientist of the Aero Propulsion Laboratory.
Dr. Hans Joachim Pabst von Ohain conceived the idea for jet propulsion in 1933 when he realized that the great noise and vibrations of the propeller piston engines seemed to destroy the smoothness and steadiness of flying.
Von Ohain was born in 1911 in Dessau, Germany. In 1935, he received his Ph.d. in Physics and Aerodynamics from the University of Goettingen, Germany. Dr. von Ohain had an interest in jet propulsion for some time and stayed at the university for the following year while he privately developed a theory of turbojet engines and then built a working model.
When von Ohain applied for a patent on his invention in 1936, the patent office referenced Frank Whittle’s 1930 patent. However, since important differences existed between the two ideas, he received his patent. In 1936, von Ohain signed a consulting agreement with the Heinkel Company in Rostock and later in Stuttgart for the development of his turbojet ideas. After directing a research and development program, Dr. von Ohain designed and produced a successful liquid-fueled engine. The HeS.3B engine was installed in the He-178 airplane and the first turbojet-powered aircraft made its first flight on August 27th, 1939 at Heinkel Airfield near Rostock, Germany.
The early success of the Heinkel jet engine development, which company funds supported, encouraged the German Air Ministry to establish a jet engine development program with the major engine companies, BMW and Jumo. This program, in turn, led to the first production jet air-planes. While at Heinkel-Herth Company, Dr. von Ohain obtained a large number of company patents in the field of radial and axial turbo-jet engines. The He.S.011 axial flow engine, developed at the end of World War II, was considered the world’s most powerful engine.
Hans von Ohain came to the United States in 1947 and became a research scientist at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. In 1956, while von Ohain was serving with the Aeronautical Research Laboratory as a group leader, the Directorate of Research of the Wright Air Development Center asked him to make a survey study of trends and research objectives in the field of energy conversion and propulsion. The results of his study were documented in a report and utilized by headquarters, Air Research and Development Command, for research planning in the field of propulsion.
In September 1963, Dr. von Ohain became Chief Scientist of the Aerospace Research Laboratories, while continuing his responsibilities as research leader in the field of energy conversion and propulsion. In this position, von Ohain played an important role in virtually all Air Force basic research concerning the physical and engineering sciences.
In 1975, von Ohain became Chief Scientist of the Aero Propulsion Laboratory of the Air Force Wright Aeronautical Laboratories. He assumed responsibility for maintaining the technical quality of the Air Force research and development in air-breathing propulsion, power and petrochemicals. His accomplishments in these positions won national and international recognition. He retired from government work in 1979 and became senior research fellow at the University of Dayton Research Institute’s Aerospace Mechanics division. He worked there until he moved to Florida.
In 32 years of government service, Dr. von Ohain published more than 30 technical papers and registered 19 U.S. patents. He received many honors and awards for his work, including the Goddard Award of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the Air Force Systems Command Award for Meritorious Civilian Service and the Department of Defense Distinguished Civilian Service Award. Dr. von Ohain was an AIAA honorary fellow, a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Charles Lindbergh Professor of the National Air and Space Museum. He was enshrined in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame and the Engineering and Sciences Hall of Fame. In 1990, the University of Dayton honored him by establishing four graduate fellowships in his name in aerothermodynamics.
Dr. von Ohain died on Friday, March 13th, 1998 at his home in Melbourne, Florida after a lengthy illness. It was the end of a distinguished life.
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