The exhibition begins with a model of a hot air balloon. Based on a satirical cartoon from 1790, it shows how the first manned balloon flights fired people’s imaginations. One hundred years later, the dirigible, or steerable airship, and Otto Lilienthal’s successful glider flights touched off an age of rapid innovation in aviation technology. The exhibition explains how Lilienthal explored the principles of flying and shared his findings with aviation pioneers all over the world. In addition, it sketches the history of the Johannisthal Air Field, which opened in 1909 as one of the first centers for motorized flight in Germany. A historical workshop rounds out the early history of aviation with some curious aircraft from this period.
Airplane technology advanced during the First World War. Airplanes were produced in large numbers and used for reconnaissance and combat. The exhibition traces the introduction of aerial cameras, radio technology, and weapons to aircraft. It shows how fighter pilots were celebrated as “knights of the skies,” as well as how these heroes’ deeds were supported by “invisible” ground crews and women in airplane factories.
After the war, retired military aircraft were used to carry mail and passengers. Flying on them was an adventure. The exhibition features a converted Halberstadt Cl IV, originally an attack aircraft, and a Junkers Ju 52 from the 1930s. A direct comparison of various commercial aircraft of the age emphasizes the progress made in that sector. In addition, the exhibition explains how the limitations imposed by the Treaty of Versailles affected German aviation, and why it was impossible for women to find work in the male domain of flying.
Aerial warfare entered a new dimension during the Second World War. Carpet bombing destroyed European cities and killed hundreds of thousands of civilians. The wreck of a Ju 87 dive bomber symbolizes the horror wrought by bombing campaigns. In addition, an exhibit devoted to V-2 production shows how forced laborers and concentration camp inmates were made to build German aircraft and rockets under inhuman conditions. Survivors tell their own stories in newspaper interviews.
A Douglas C-47, a symbol of the Berlin Airlift of 1948/49, prominently hangs outside the Technikmuseum. Transport aircraft known as “Raisin Bombers” (Rosinenbomber), or “Candy Bombers” in American parlance, kept West Berlin supplied with necessities during the Soviet military’s blockade of the city. In addition, several airplanes from East and West Germany are on display to show how differently aviation developed in the two countries. Last but not least, the Technikmuseum is currently expanding into outer space. A new exhibition devoted to space travel is now being developed.
The Jeannin Stahltaube’s fuselage is made of steel tubing – hence its name, which means “steel dove.” It is not only the oldest airplane in the collection, but also the only extant plane made by Emil Jeannin, an aircraft designer in Johannisthal. Before World War I, the Taube was a standard reconnaissance and training plane. It was put to military use only at the beginning of the war, though. By 1914 it was already obsolete.
Emil Jeannin-Flugzeugbau GmbH, 1914, on loan from the Polish Aviation Museum, Cracow
Development of the Ju 87 began in 1934 by order of the Heereswaffenamt, the German Army Weapons Agency. It was designed as a precision dive bomber, or Sturzkampfbomber. Hence its nickname: “Stuka.” The Junkers plane was easily recognizable by its inverted gull wings, by its undercarriage, and above all by the wailing of its siren. This made it the symbol of the Luftwaffe’s war of aggression.
Junkers Flugzeug- & Motorenwerke AG, 1939
Charlotte Möhring was the third of six women in Germany to get a pilot’s license before World War I. She overcame prejudice and resistance to work as a flight instructor and air show pilot. With the outbreak of war in 1914, however, women were excluded from aviation. Women began standing up for the right to fly again in the 1920s, but heavy restrictions remained on their working in aviation. Only in 1986 were woman allowed to be trained as commercial pilots in Germany.
When German astronaut Alexander Gerst blasted off for the International Space Station on June 6, 2018, this fin was attached to one of the boosters on his Soyuz rocket. The boosters were dropped at an altitude of 45 kilometers and fell back to Earth. The remaining fuel burned in the process, as can be seen by the burn marks on the fin.
Progress Rocket Space Center, 2018