Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Dietmar Sengespeik 1937-







Dietmar Sengespeik was born 25/07/1937 in Tost/Oberschlesien in a part of Germany which now belongs to Poland. My father was managing director of the local brewery. In 1938 the family moved to Cologne, where they were evacuated during the war to East-Germany to escape the bombing raids. In 1945 they returned to Cologne, where Dietmar attended the primary and high school. In 1957 he finished the German 'Gynasium' with the final certificate of 'Abitur'.

Immedeately thereafter he was called to National Service and decided to enrole to the German Airforce as a fighter pilot. After having passed the basic military training he attended the flight training schools at Landsberg and F├╝rstenfeldbruck, where he was instructed on the Harward Mk IV ( Prop ) and the T-33 ( Jet ). From 1960 to 1964 he was based at Leck AB, 72th fighter wing. The combat aircraft were the F-86 Sabre, the most versatile conventional jet aircraft that he ever flew. He recalls the experience with the greatest of pleasure. One of the highlights for Dietmar during that time was his participation in the second Flying Tiger Meeting at Woodbridge AFB, UK, in August 1962, which apparently created big excitement in the British newspapers at that time.

He also flew the Fiat G-91 and on the Lockheed F-104. In 1964 he left the GAF with the rank of a major and studied general engineering at the university of Aachen and graduated as 'Diplom-Ingenieur' in 1969.

The combination of his flying experiance and an university degree of engineering gave him the opportunity of employment as a testpilot with the German company VFW in Bremen, which at that time had a merger with the Dutch company of Fokker. VFW's own project, the VFW-614, which was the first passenger jet aircraft developed

in Germany after the war, was not yet ready for the maiden flight, so he was transferred to Fokker at Amsterdam, where he lived for three years. There he met among others the Chief test pilot Jas Moll, who he recalls as an extraordinary pilot. At Schipol he flew the Fokker Friendship F-27 and the Fellowship F-28 during factory test flights, worldwide ferry flights and airline assistance especially in West Africa.

After his return to VFW in Bremen he was involved in the evaluation and certification flight test programs, which finally led to the civil certification of the VFW-614 project by the German LBA, the American FAA, the British CAA and the French DGAC. Many ferry flights, customer training and assistance as well as demonstration tours as far as West Africa and Iran followed. As project pilot for the engine development he spent a lot of time at Bristol, UK, where the M-45H engine had been developed and was built at the Rolls-Royce factory. He recalls that Chief test pilot Harry Pollit and his deputy John Lewis, whom he met there, to have been exquisite pilots assisting and bringing forward the VFW-614 program.

To his very big disappointment the VFW-614 project was given up at the end of 1977 due to lack of commercial success. The delivered aircraft to Cimber Air, TAT and Air Alsace were sold back and destroyed. Only a few aircraft remained in service with the German experimental institution ( DLR at Braunschweig ) and the German

governmental executive wing ( FBS at cologne ). Dietmar trained all their pilots.

Its Dietmars's opinion that the VFW-614 was the most versatile civil passenger jet aircraft that he ever flew, comparable to the F-86 Sabre(aircraft made for pilots) but was 25 years too early on the market.

In 1977 another highlight of Dietmar's career was when he won the competition together with Dr.Mehrbold,

Dr.Furrer and Dr.Messerschmidt to be the first German astronauts in the skylab. All three of whom flew into space,but sadly, there was no slot left for Dietmar thereafter.

After the disaster with the VFW-614 program, he moved to Airbus Industries at Toulouse where he trained on the Airbus A-300 and flew for one year for Iran Air in Teheran on domestic routes. When the revolution expelled the Shah of Persia he had to leave the country as well. A few shorter sorties on the A-300 followed during the years later. He returned to Germany to Lemwerder close to Bremen, where the Transall C-160 program of the German Airforce was based. As project pilot he flew all the factory test flights after repair and overhaul of the military transport aircraft. As he also held a licence for the Hansa HFB-320, which had been developed at Hamburg,he did the necessary test flights as well. Besides that business he acted as airfield commander and tower controller.

In 1981/1982 he participated for one year in the transmigration program of the Indonesian government,when he flew thousands of native settlers from the overcrowded island of Java to their new farmland in the jungle of the other islands. He also performed Flight crew training for the Indonesian follow-up pilots afterwards.


In 1996 the Lemwerder factory had to close down, the Transall C-160 project was shifted to Manching close to Munich, so he headed to Southern Germany,where he worked for another four years.In summer 2000 he had trained his successor pilots and left the company due to his age.

In the meantime the three VFW-614 aircraft with the governmental excecutive wing were put out of service and sold to a Swedish investor. This gentleman tried to integrate these aircrafts with his assistance into civil operation as passenger- and freighter- ( nightmail ) airplanes. The big problem was their military certification, which had to be transferred into a civil one, which induced a lot of quarrel with the civil authorities.This was solved finally, and they got American and Danish registrations, but the former producers, VFW and Rolls-Royce, were not very enthusiastic about the revival of that program, so they encountered a lack of support. As financial problems arose this pleasant project had to be given up. Nevertheless Dietmar could log about 150 hours on that rare type during training-, demonstration- and ferry-missions. The remaining aircraft are distributed to different museums, one is based

as a practise-demonstrator at a technical school in Cardiff, UK.

Altogether Dietmar could log about 10,000 hours most of which were made during test flights. He had neither accidents nor bail-outs and survived all incidents without injuries.