Ernst Heinkel was born in Grunbach, Germany, today a part of Remshalden. As a young man he became an apprentice machinist at a foundry. Heinkel studied at the Technical Academy of Stuttgart, where he initially became interested in aviation through a fascination with Zeppelins. In 1909, after he attended an international airshow in Frankfurt am Main, he determined flight was the future of transportation, and the following year, he built his first aircraft.
Ernst Heinkel established his own company shortly after the liquidation of Hansa Brandenburg, building a series of single-engined seaplanes (He 1 to He 8) in Sweden to circumvent the ban on the construction of military aircraft in Germany.
Heinkel, created in 1922, dealt with design, building of prototypes and small series. Large-scale production was not available, since all its production areas were limited to old aviation hangar in Varnemyunde.
The general practice was using HD designations for Heinkel Doppeldeckers (biplanes) and HE designations for Heinkel Eindeckers (monoplanes) was dropped in favour of He designations.
The He 51 biplane fighter went into production for the Luftwaffe in the 1930s and served with the Condor Legion in Spain. When the Heinkel He 70 passenger/mailplane appeared in 1932, ostensibly for Deutsche Lufthansa, it was the most advanced aerodynamic design then seen in Europe. A natural outgrowth of this design was the Heinkel He 111 twin-engined bomber which served with the Luftwaffe throughout the Second World War. A Rolls-Royce Merlin-engined version of the He 111 was built by CASA in Spain, and served with the Spanish Air Force until the late 1960s. Heinkel also produced late in the war the He 162 Volksjager (People's Fighter), a lightweight turbojet fighter constructed almost entirely of wood. Heinkel had designed, built and flown the world's first jet aircraft, the He 178, in 1939. Other significant Heinkel projects included the He 177 Greif heavy bomber and the He 219 Uhu nightfighter.
Heinkel joined VFW in 1965.