Ludwig Bölkow, a visionary engineer

Ludwig Bölkow was born in Schwerin, North Germany on 30 June 1912. He was a gifted student and he lived and breathed aviation as a child: his father was a supervisor in the Fokker aircraft construction factories.


© DR

After studying mechanics and aircraft construction at the University of Berlin, he joined the Project Office of the well known aircraft manufacturer Messerschmitt.
Thank to his skill in mathematics and aerodynamics, he was soon put to work on the Messerschmitt 262, the world's first operational fighter aircraft to be powered by a jet engine, whose outlines he designed and tested in a wind tunnel. After the war, he was given the opportunity of continuing his career in the United States, far from his devastated homeland.

Several decades later, he explained his decision: "As an engineer, I felt I did not have the right to run away like that (…) and leave all those people behind." Convinced that Germany, once back on its feet again, would need his skills, he decided not to emigrate, and set up his own civil engineering bureau in 1948.
Extremely dynamic and remarkably inventive, Ludwig Bölkow took out a series of patents for roof structures and construction systems. But he could not keep away from aviation for long and, in 1956, he founded Bölkow Entwicklungen KG, whose activities focused on light aircraft, helicopters and missiles. On 1st December 1958, the company set up shop in Ottobrunn, near Munich, on a site that is still active, and now used by Eurocopter.

1969 saw Ludwig Bölkow take over the direction of MBB, the result of the merger between his company and the activities of his former employer Messerschmitt. MBB, which went on to become the No. 1 aerospace firm in Germany, possessed a helicopter expertise unique in Germany.

The interests of the genial industrialist were by no means limited to aeronautics. He left MBB at the age of 65 to set up a new company dedicated to promoting 'clean' transportation systems and sources of energy.
He died on 25 July 2003 before realizing this dream, convinced he was merely decades ahead of his contemporaries!



_AUTHOR: ALEXANDRE MARCHAND