The woman who would one day become one of the best-known test pilots of the Third Reich was born on March 29, , into an upper-middle-class family in Hirschberg, Silesia. From early on, Hanna Reitsch was an intense, determined and intelligent individual. She became fascinated with flying at a young age, reportedly attempting to jump off the balcony of her home at age 4 in her eagerness to experience flight. By the time she was 14, she had set her sights on becoming a flying missionary doctor in Africa. It was a dream that seemed likely to please both her authoritarian ophthalmologist father, a Protestant, and her devout Catholic mother. During her teens she studied the writings of Ignatius of Loyola to discipline her mind and develop highly focused concentration.

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Putnam, There was a world gliding championship that year, and it was held at a place called Oerlinghausen. The huge expanse of grassland was crowded with gliders in a variety of club markings, waiting their turn to be towed into the air.

And there were notable pilots, around whom admiring crowds were grouped. One in particular was clearly very famous and the center of attention. And she was a woman, though I had not a clue who she was. If he doted on her, his admiration was as nothing to the adoration she bore for him. In April , as the Red Army closed in on the surrounded heart of Berlin, and Hitler, drawn and trembling, moped about his bunker under the Reich Chancellery, Hanna Reitsch, at the controls of a Fieseler Storch, a high-wing monoplane with an extremely short landing and takeoff run, flew into the doomed enclave.

With amazing skill, she put it down on an avenue in the Charlottenburg Zoo, switched off, and walked through the shell fire to the bunker. Because of who she was, she was allowed into the final redoubt where, a few days later, Hitler would blow his brains out, and was ushered into the presence. There she begged the man she admired so much to let her fly him out of the Berlin death trap and down to the Berghof, his fortified home at Berchtesgaden in southern Bavaria.

There, she urged him, surrounded by SS last-ditch fanatics, the resistance could continue. Hitler thanked her, but refused. He was determined to die and bring all Germany down to ruin with him. They were not worthy of him, he explained, one notable exception being Hanna Reitsch. A friend of my host, another veteran of the Luftwaffe, secured our admission into the admiring circle around the ace aviator. She was beaming and shook hands with my host and his wife and their teenage children.

Then she turned to me and held out her hand. That was when my host made a mistake. The smile froze, the hand was withdrawn. I recall a pair of blazing blue eyes and a voice rising in rage.

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Flying Is My Life [Illustrated Edition]

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Hanna Reitsch

She set over 40 aviation flight altitude records and endurance records during her career, both before and after World War II, and several of her international gliding records still stood in In the s she founded a gliding school in Ghana, where she worked for Kwame Nkrumah. Hanna Reitsch. Hanna Reitsch is unusual in being a feminine woman who was yet the equal of men in a dangerous male profession — test-piloting new military aircraft. Her love of flying from childhood on, along with her superior intelligence, determination, and ability to withstand tremendous stresses, gave her the edge that allowed her to rise to the top of the aviation world.


Flying Is My Life

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Hanna Reitsch: Hitler’s Female Test Pilot

During the Nazi era, she and Melitta von Stauffenberg flight tested many of the regime's new aircraft. In the s, she was sponsored by the West German foreign office as a technical adviser in Ghana and elsewhere, [3] and founded a gliding school in Ghana , where she worked for Kwame Nkrumah. She had a brother, Kurt, and a sister. She began flight training in at the School of Gliding in Grunau. Her flying skill, desire for publicity, and photogenic qualities made her a star of Nazi propaganda.

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