A series of rocket powered cars and planes commissioned and, in some cases, driven or piloted, by Fritz von Opel, of the Opel car company, in association with others, including Max Valier and Wilhelm Sander.

The Opel-RAK 1 plane

In June 1928, von Opel purchased a sailplane named the Ente from Alexander Lippisch, and fitted it with rockets, creating the world's first rocket plane on June 11. Opel did not get the chance to fly it, however, as the aircraft was destroyed by an engine explosion on its second test flight.
He commissioned a new aircraft from Julius Hatry, and flew it at Frankfurt-am-Main on September 30, 1929 in front of a large crowd at Rebstock airport near Frankfurt-am-Main.
The RAK.1 had a typical sailplane wing, under which a pod was suspended to accommodate the pilot and sixteen solid rocket engines. The tailplane was mounted on booms behind the wing and high out of the way of the rocket exhaust. Opel successfully piloted it over 1.5 km (0.93 mi) in 75 seconds of flight, but landed hard, damaging the aircraft beyond repair. Opel planned to build a second rocket plane, but apparently lost interest before the project was completed.
The aircraft is sometimes referred to as the Opel-Hatry RAK.1 or Opel-Sander RAK.1 in acknowledgment of its builder or the supplier of its engines respectively. In still other references it is called the RAK.3 to distinguish it from Opel's previous RAK.1 and RAK.2 rocket cars. As it happened, all three names, Opel, Sander, and Hatry were painted on the aircraft (with Opel’s most prominent), as was the RAK.1 designation.

Opel-RAK 1 plane in flight.

Fritz von Opel (right) and Friedrich Sander (left) in front of Opel RAK.1

Ref.: #95, #98 - update: 12.05.13 Home