Wolfram Hirth

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Wolfram Kurt Erhard Hirth (February 28 1900July 25 1959) was a German gliding pioneer and sailplane designer. He was a co-founder of Schempp-Hirth, one of the most renowned sailplane manufacturers in the world today.

Hirth was born in Stuttgart, the son of an engineer and tool-maker. He was the younger brother of Hellmuth, who founded the famous Hirth aircraft engine manufacturing company.

As a young man, Hirth took up gliding and was soon drawn to the Wasserkuppe, then the focus of the German gliding movement, earning his pilot's licence in 1920. In 1924, Hirth lost a leg after a motorcycle accident. From then on, he would fly while wearing a wooden prosthesis. He had the fibula from his amputated leg fashioned into a cigarette holder[1]

In 1928, he graduated from the Technical University of Stuttgart with a diploma in engineering and began to focus on aircraft construction. Over the next decade, he would also tour the world, promoting gliding throughout Europe, the United States, Japan, South America, and South Africa. On one of these publicity trips, he suffered major injuries in a crash in Hungary, requiring a hospital stay of four months.

Wolf Hirth took also part in International Championships of Touring Aircraft Challenge 1929, Challenge 1932 (6th place) and Challenge 1934 (13th place).

With the assistance of Wolf Hirth, Martin Schempp founded in Göppingen his own company in 1935: "Sportflugzeugbau Göppingen Martin Schempp". In 1938, Wolf Hirth, mainly responsible for the design work, officially became a partner in the company, which then took on the new name “Sportflugzeugbau Schempp-Hirth”. The company relocated to Kirchheim-Teck the same year. The company first manufactured a small training glider, the Göppingen Gö 1, intended to rival the Grunau Baby. The company's first real success, however, was the Gö 3 Minimoa, a distinctive aircraft with an elegant gull wing design that was used to break several world records and win championships around the world.

Hirth continued to direct the firm throughout World War II and during the Allied occupation of Germany, until glider production could begin again in 1951. He had a heart attack while flying his aerobatic glider in 1959 and died in the subsequent crash.

Part of this article consists of modified text from Wikipedia, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL.


  1. (11 August 1930) "Flight and Flyers". Time. Retrieved on 2008-04-03.