Anton Flettner



First published in The New York Times on December 30, 1961

Anton Flettner, an inventor in the field of aircraft and ship propulsation died yesterday in St. Vincents Hospital after a short illness. He was 76 years old.

Mr. Flettner was president of the Flettner Aircraft Corporation , a research and development corcern.

After serving Germany in both World Wars, he came to USA soon after World War II as a consultant to the office of Naval Research (US Navy Department).

He was actively engaged in carrying out US government research projects for the Army, Air Force and Navy until a few months ago.

Mr. Flettner was born in Germany and attended the Fulda State Teachers College in Germany. When he was teaching mathematics and physics in a high school in Frankfurt, he began to develop ideas leading to his work for Germany in World War I.

Anton Flettner and the FL282 Anton Flettner with the FL282 Kolibri


During the war he developed what was perhaps his best known invention. It is called Flettner 's control. The control was fashioned to lift or lower a plane's nose. It is considered the model for trim tabs used on almost all planes to aid in control movement or to help ashieve hands-off balance. After the control 's development for aircraft it was adapted to ship rudders.

In the war, Mr. Flettner also invented tanks improvements for Germany.

After the war, he was named managing director of the Institute for Aero and Hydro Dynamics, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. He held that post until 1931.

In the Nineteen-twentys, he developed his Wind Ship or Rotor Ship in which propulsion was achieved by pressures and vacuums created by winds channeled around two rotating towers. The ship received a nosy welcome in USA in 1926 and was praised by Dr. Albert Einstein as having great practical importance, but it was not commercial success.

From 1926 to 1945, Mr. Flettner was president of the Anton Flettner Aircraft Corporation in Berlin. It built helicopters used by Hitler 's forces in World War II. The helicopters had two rotors whose blades intermeshed like egg beaters. This development was widely used by manufacturers in USA.

After the war, Mr Flettner approached US Army with a new helicopter idea. Helicopters need no airfields and are theoretically ideal for short-haul transport of troops, but a big trouble with them has been that the life of the central nerve, the gear box for the rotor, is not nearly so long as military leaders would like. Rotor gears require major overhauls every few hundred flying hours.

In 1954, Mr. Flettner thought that he had the answer. He decided that if the gear life was the main problem, the rotor gears should be used less. He designed a helicopter with a forty troops capacity in which two conventional propellers would assume the burden of forward flight, with the intermeshing overhead rotors , drawing 20 per cent or less of the engine power and simply providing lift. The result, he said, would be gear life 10 times what it is when the rotor does the whole job. The Army financed the design with the idea that it might eventually invest in production

Mr Flettner was an honorary member of the American Helicopter Society and of the Convertible Aircraft Pioneers

Contribution: Eric Graven,


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