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Lippisch 272 Fafnir

fafnir

Günther Groenhoff demonstrated his skill and courage while conducting research for a Munich meteorology conference in May 1931. On a mission to gather weather data, he installed various instruments on his Alexander Lippisch built "Fafnir" model 272 glider and was towed to altitude by a powered aircraft piloted by pilot Peter Reidel. As they approached towering cumulus clouds over Munich, Groenhoff's Fafnir was released to his fate. For the next eight hours, he was bounced and buffeted around the thunderstorm amid lightning flashes, hail and torrential rain, all the while collecting valuable information on weather conditions. Many times he flew in the blind. His journal indicates that he experienced one rapid descent in zero visibility to emerge from the cloud to see the ground only a few hundred feet below. He managed to bank and return to the front side of the thundercloud. He wrote, "as soon as the storm reached me, some powerful force pulled the plane straight up into the center of the clouds. It seemed to me as if I were riding an express elevator of a high skyscraper."
After soaring with the storm for eight hours, he had traveled 240 miles and finally landed on a riverbed, coming to rest a few meters short of an electric line near Kaaden, Czechoslovakia. Groenhoff wrote that he was gratified that he was able to bring home "the rich material for meteorological research."
Back at Wasserkuppe on July 23, 1932, Groenhoff once again soared into the strong, turbulent winds of a thunderstorm. However, his good fortune had run out. The rudder of his Fafnir snapped and he crashed on the west slope, dying instantly. He was 23 years old.
 


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