A new book by Jürgen Gassebner lifts the lid on Porsche’s aviation history, with a nod to the company’s future in the skies
Given such engineering excellence, it comes as no surprise that Porsche’s powerplants were in demand away from the road. Both its 356 and 911 flat engines formed the basis of two successful aircraft engines – the four-cylinder type 678 and six-cylinder PFM 3200.
However, what’s less known is that Porsche’s connection to the aviation world stretches back over 100 years. Ferdinand Porsche constructed his first aircraft engine following his move to Austro-Daimler as Technical Director in 1906.
And now a new book, ‘Porsche Aviation’ details the complete history, together with insight into Porsche’s potential return to the skies. Written by Porsche expert Jürgen Gassebner, a pilot for 25 years and “Flying Ambassador” of the Porsche Museum since 2010, this beautifully illustrated 184-page definitive work is a must for devotees of the marque.
Style for Miles caught up with Jürgen to discuss the inspiration behind the book.
SFM: When did your passion for Porsche start?
JG: It was in the late 1960s. I was five or six years old and my parents gave me a Carrera electric slot-car racetrack for Christmas. One of the two cars was a 906 Carrera 6. To this day it is one of my favourite Porsche racing cars.
A short time later, a business friend of my father's visited us with his red 911 S. I was allowed to ride with him and at that moment I knew: at some point I would also like to drive a 911.
SFM: When did you become aware of Porsche's involvement in aviation and why do you think few people know of the connection?
JG: In the early 1970s I was a model aircraft pilot. That was when I heard of Porsche four-cylinder aircraft engines. I also took notice of the PFM 3200 in the 1980s, especially thanks to Porsche’s flight around the world with the PFM-powered Rothman’s Mooney.
The topic really came up for me in 1995 when I got my private pilot license and I started to work also as an aviation journalist and photographer.
SFM: Describe your aviation history and your role as Porsche Aviation Ambassador?
JG: In WWII my father was a pilot and taught me at an early age to fly model aircrafts, then at some point I really wanted to be a pilot myself. In 1995 I got my private pilot license and bought the Puetzer Elster B, which we restored extensively between 2008 and 2010.
Shortly before the restoration work was completed, the Porsche Museum showed interest in it, and so this airplane from 1963 became the flying ambassador of the Porsche Museum.
Since then she’s been bringing the Porsche theme closer to visitors at air shows, together with filming and photo shoots. Every now and then I give special Porsche enthusiasts a scenic flight over Zuffenhausen and Weissach.
SFM: How deep did Ferdinand Porsche’s passion go for aviation?
JG: To be honest, it's hard to say. I think that his passion was technology and especially new technologies. So it's no wonder for me that he also devoted himself to aircraft engines, because aviation was still a relatively new industry that was constantly developing.
SFM: What were the key landmarks in Porsche's aviation history?
JG: Some outstanding points are certainly during the pre-war developments by Professor Ferdinand Porsche. As a manufacturer, Porsche brought the four-cylinder aircraft engines based on the 356 engine and the six-cylinder PFM 3200 based on the 911 engine.
Without question, the PFM 3200 was a milestone in terms of efficiency and noise emission. It was the economical whisper engine, as it was called.
SFM: What does the future hold for Porsche’s connection with the aviation world?
JG: In October 19, Porsche AG announced that, together with aerospace company Boeing, it intends to enter the market for Urban Premium Air Mobility. The two parties had signed a letter of intent to this effect.
The aim of the cooperation is to combine the strengths and knowledge of both companies to investigate the future of urban aircraft.
Porsche is evolving from a sports car manufacturer into a leading brand name for premium mobility. Furthermore, Porsche, Boeing and Aurora Flight Sciences, a subsidiary of Boeing, are also developing a concept for a fully electric aircraft that can take off and land vertically.
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