Wilfried Baron von Engelhardt (11th September 1928, Liebenberg – 24th January 2015, Linz/Austria) was Chief Test Pilot of MBB, first flight of Bölkow BO 46 and BO 105. Fellow SETP. Member of the “French Académie de l’air et de l’espace”.
Wilfried “Fred” Baron von Engelhardt was born in the Castle of Liebenberg (north of Berlin, Germany) as the great-grandson of Fürst Philip zu Eulenburg. Through his step-father, C.A. von Schoenbeck, who flew as a pilot in WW I in the famous squadron of the „Red Baron“ and who was later the Commander of the German Flight Test Center in Rechlin, Fred early on developed a passion for aviation. Young Fred often met with famous German pilots – Hanna Reitsch and Ernst Udet to name a few. While his step-father frequently piloted a Fieseler Fi 156 Storch and would sometimes land on the Castle´s estate, Fred got attached to helicopters. Back then helicopters were in their infancy. The rotorcraft aerodynamics, not well understood these days, the much more complex mechanism as such and the versatility of helicopters attracted him more than fixed wing aircraft.
Nevertheless, Fred started out fixed wing. At age 16 he was trained as a glider pilot – the first step towards a seat in a fighter aircraft of the German Luftwaffe. Fred was trained on SG 38 and Grunay Baby. He earned his wings in the “Kranich”. By October 1944 he held the A, B and C-privileges in his Glider license.
Towards the end of the WWII he continued training and was supposed to fly the Heinkel He 162 “Volksjäger”. However, events turned. The lack of aviation fuel in the last days of the war forced Fred to stay out of the Heinkel.
His family had to flee to Austria after the war had ended and Fred earned his high school diploma in Linz in 1947. He would definitely have opted for an aerospace program; however; the Allies banned courses on aeronautical engineering at German and Austrian universities. Fred completed a training to become hotel manager instead.
At the time his step-father had the German dealership for Hiller Helicopters. Fred moved to Paris, was taught French at Sorbonne and eventually became an aircraft mechanic. This likely was the most important step towards his professional career as a test pilot.
From 1955 to 1956 Fred then worked as an aircraft mechanic in the Netherlands. It was a small enterprise and he lived on a very small salary. In return, he was allowed to fly the Hiller 12B and eventually became the first commercial helicopter pilot in the Netherlands and Germany. His log book shows his first flight in a Hiller H12B, registration PH-NFL, on 2nd August 1954 (Fred had flown fixed wing aircraft before, mainly gliders and – not official – his step-father´s “Fieseler Storch”. When starting official fixed wing flight training his flight instructor would let him solo after only 20 minutes of dual instruction).
Fred progressed to flight instructor in 1956 in Paris and earned his living as a flight instructor, for both civilian and military pilots, flying Bell 47 and Djinn helicopters until 1960.
Looking at his flight log the next step in his career brought him to Dutch New-Guinea. He worked there as an operational helicopter pilot from 26th September 1961 to 3rd August 1962. In these days Fred worked for S.G.O.N.N.G., flying the Alouette II to remote locations in a remote part of the world.
Because of his technical background Fred was invited to join the newly created group around Ludwig Bölkow. His mentor was the engineer Hans Derschmidt, a member of the Bölkow group who developed a swept rotor system with variable sweep and who recommended Engelhardt to the company owner Mr. Bölkow (“he is not only a pilot – he also has some solid understanding of helicopter technology”). Bölkow was in need for a test pilot for his BO 46 project (the BO 46 employed a novice rotor concept with variable sweep main rotor blades so to achieve higher speeds in forward flight. After his inventor this rotor system is named “Derschmidt Rotor”).
Fred went to Test Pilot School in Istres. In his spare time on weekends he tested French helicopters as a volunteer and graduated as best of class on 1st July 1966 with test pilot certificate No 31. He served as the Chief Test pilot at MBB from 1962 to 1973.
After his career as a test pilot Fred worked as Head of Sales, then Head of Customer Training. This position took him into many parts of the world, among other, Africa and Middle East and he would now pass on his knowledge to younger pilots.
Wilfried “Fred” von Engelhardt´s First Flights:
Together with Sigi Hoffmann, Fred was the first holder of an instrument rating for helicopters in Germany. Fred has held SETP functions in the European part of the society in the past. Despite of his high age he showed great interest in the activities of the society.
Wilfried “Fred” von Engelhardt´s Last Flights:
After his retirement Wilfried dedicated himself to helping people, in particular those who were disabled. He was an active member in Church and developed and supported an S.O.S. Kinderdorf for homeless children. Fred took courses in theology at Linz University and completed an education as a medical professional in Traditional Chinese Medicine. He was very active in the field of anthropology as well.
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