Monday, May 17, 2010

Paul Rudolf (Rudy) Opitz 1910-2010

He was born on August 9, 1910 in the town of Landeshut, in Silesia Germany. He started his love for flying by joining a local flying club and teaching himself how to fly in a homebuilt glider. After receiving formal instruction in 1932, he entered and placed in several gliding competitions. Between 1941 and 1945, he acted as chief military test pilot for the Me-163A and Me-163B rocket powered interceptor aircraft. He made the first powered flight of the Me-163B, the only rocket powered interceptor aircraft ever to achieve operational status. The Me-163 Komet was a tailless rocket powered interceptor and was the fastest aircraft to see combat in World World II, achieving a top speed of well over 600 MPH in level flight. At the end of World War II, he was recruited by the U.S. Government, ultimately coming to the U.S. to work at Wright Paterson Air Force base as a part of operation Paperclip, the U.S. government operation that brought Dr. Wernher von Braun, Dr. Anselm Franz, and other noted German Scientists to the U.S.A. He became a U.S. Citizen in 1955 and in 1956, he left Wright Patterson to be a test pilot at the newly formed turbine division of Lycoming Co. in Stratford, which was formed by fellow paperclip scientist Dr. Franz. At Lycoming, he worked as Chief of Flight Test Operations supporting the development of gas turbine engines for helicopters and aircraft until his retirement. He also served as an FAA pilot examiner for glider private, commercial, and flight-instructor ratings for over three decades.