Richard Vogt (aircraft designer)

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Richard Vogt (19 December 1894 - January 1979) was a German engineer and aircraft designer. He is well known as a designer of unique warplanes, including an asymmetrically-shaped reconnaissance aircraft and a nuclear-powered bomber,[1] during and after World War II.


Richard Vogt was born in Schwäbisch Gmünd, a town in the Kingdom of Württemberg which at that time was a constituent state of the German Empire. He was the seventh child of twelve siblings. He was admitted to a school of universal literacy education in Stuttgart-Cannstatt. When he was a student at the school, he had an opportunity get to know Ernst Heinkel and to achieve his first aeronautical experience, which aroused his enthusiasm for flying.

In 1912, when he was 18 years old, Vogt built his first aeroplane. With this draft plane he tried to carry out first flight tests with the assistance of his friend. He carried out this plan with the permission of the authorities concerned with the heath of Mutlangen, a neighboring town of Schwäbisch Gmünd. Unfortunately the trial, which was performed under the observation of Ernst Heinkel, was not successful. After graduation from high school he was working for one year at an engine factory in Ludwigshafen.

With the outbreak of World War I, he enlisted in the ranks of the German Empire. However, he was injured in action and returned home. Then he received his pilot training in Halberstadt at his own request. He was discharged from military service in August 1916 and was able to work on projects at the Zeppelin works in Friedrichshafen. In that company he met Claudius Dornier. Vogt was impressed by Dornier, which encouraged him to strive to become an aircraft designer. After the war, he completed a two-year study course at the Technical University in Stuttgart, and subsequently served as an assistant to Professor Baumann at the university's Institute of Aeronautical and Automobile Systems until 1922. During that period he was awarded his first patent and received a doctorate degree. This was the beginning of his career as an aircraft designer.

On behalf of Claudius Dornier, Vogt was briefly sent to Italy, and from 1923 to 1933 he was dispatched to the Kawasaki Dockyard Company Limited (Kawasaki Aircraft) in Kobe, Japan, which was a licensed manufacturer of Dornier aircraft. In Japan he was appointed to the rank of chief designer, and he trained the young Japanese engineer Takeo Doi to be his successor. Doi later on designed the Ki-61 Hien . During that period Vogt designed several models including the KDA-5 Army Type 92 biplane fighter plane, KDA-2 Army Type 88 biplane reconnaissance, KDA-3 single-seat fighter, and a modified type of the KDA-5 Army Type 92-I biplane fighter (in cooperation with Takeo Doi).

Nazi Germany[edit]

Flying Blohm & Voss BV141 tactical reconnaissance aircraft. The prototype aircraft had an unusual asymmetrical shape. However, the controllability was very stable and maneuverable.

In 1933 he returned to Germany accepting an offer from the Blohm & Voss shipyards that invited him to serve as the head engineer of the aircraft department. His first project at Blohm & Voss was the Ha 136 monoplane trainer. His second design was the Ha 137 dive bomber with inverted gull wings. This aircraft was not a success, but it was equipped with some pioneering technologies. The attractive cantilevered wings had a rectangular- or square-shaped all-metal tubular spar into which the main fuel tank was integrated. The peculiarity of the Ha 137 resembled the Kawasaki Ki-5, in the design of which Vogt had been involved just before leaving Japan.

Flying Blohm & Voss BV 138B "Seedrache (English: Sea Dragon)" long-range maritime reconnaissance flying boat. The aircraft was powered by three engines. The center (number 2) engine was mounted above the "hanged" fuselage.

After these projects, many other warplanes, especially the BV 138 maritime reconnaissance aircraft, Ha 139 transport seaplane, Ha 140 torpedo bomber seaplane, BV 141 reconnaissance aircraft, BV 222 transport / reconnaissance aircraft Viking, and BV 238 reconnaissance aircraft were produced under his leadership and significant participation. The BV 141 is well known for its unique asymmetrical structure, and the flying boats BV 222 and BV 238 were the largest and heaviest aircraft, respectively, at the time of their maiden flights. Although Vogt had worked out a plan for another huge flying boat, the P.200, with eight engines and a range of 8,000 kilometres (5,000 mi), it could not be realized.

The design of the BV 155 high-altitude interceptor was started in mid-1943. The aircraft had initially been developed as the carrier-based fighter aircraft Me 155 at Messerschmitt. However, as the tide of war interfered with the development of the fighter, Blohm & Voss was ordered by the Luftwaffe to take over the design of the high-altitude fighter. Vogt totally redesigned the aircraft and build a prototype plane at the end of 1944 or in early 1945. The BV 155 never entered service before Germany's defeat in 1945.

At the final stage of the war, deterioration of the battle situation created a necessity for more efficient offensive power. In response to this, Vogt designed the Bv 246 "Hagelkorn (Hailstone)", a pilotless glider carrying large quantities of explosives. The tiny glider bomb was radio-controlled from the carrier aircraft which released it at high altitude. However, this glider bomb had never been used in action, although more than 1,000 aircraft were manufactured. Vogt also had conceived a plan to develop a jet fighter, but this plan remained unexecuted.

Post World War II career in the USA[edit]

After World War II, Vogt was asked by the US Air Force to carry out "Operation Paperclip", and he moved to the United States. In the United States, he was working as a civilian employee for the Research Laboratory of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio from the beginning of 1947 to 1954. Subsequently he became the chief designer of the Aerophysics Development Corporation and worked there until the company decided to discontinue this line of business in 1960. From August 1960 to August 1966, he served as a staff member on the team of George S. Schairer, who was the chief aerodynamicist in the research and testing division of Boeing Company.

At Boeing, Vogt was especially involved in the design of vertical takeoff systems and hydrofoils. He also investigated the effect of the length and shape of wings on the flying range, and he proved that small extensions attached to both tips of the wings improved the aerodynamics and increased the operation range of the aircraft. This finding has been widely used in the design of modern aircraft, where the extension parts are well known as the wing tips or winglets. His last assignment was the after-launch evaluation of the design of the Boeing 747.


After retiring from Boeing, he enjoyed developing a safe sailboat that would not turn over, and he wrote his memoirs. In 1977 a fire totally destroyed his house, resulting in the loss of many personal and technical documents. In January 1979, he died of myocardial infarction in Santa Barbara, California, at age 84. Richard Vogt was married and had two sons.

Aircraft of his design[edit]

In Japan[2]
In Germany[6]


  • Vogt, Richard (1976). Weltumspannende Memoiren eines Flugzeugkonstrukteurs [Global memoirs of an aircraft designer] (in German). ISBN 978-3-934596-14-6. 


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