Heinkel He 59

The Heinkel He 59 was a twin-engined German biplane designed in 1930, resulting from a requirement for a torpedo bomber and reconnaissance aircraft able to operate on wheeled landing gear or twin-floats.

He 59
Heinkel He 59 SAR plane in flight 1940.jpg
The prototype He 59B-3 search-and-rescue aircraft in flight.
Role Trainer, transport, air ambulance, torpedo bomber
Manufacturer Heinkel
First flight September 1931
Introduction 1935
Retired 1944
Primary users Luftwaffe
Finnish Air Force
Number built 142


crew of the 6. Seenotstaffel is walking from the Zeeburgereiland over the jetty to their Heinkel He 59. Probably in the second half of 1940 or 1941.

In 1930, Ernst Heinkel began developing an aircraft for the Reichsmarine. To conceal the true military intentions, the aircraft was officially a civil aircraft. The He 59B landplane prototype was the first to fly, an event that took place in September 1931,[1] but it was the He 59A floatplane prototype that paved the way for the He 59B initial production model, of which 142 were delivered in three variants. The Heinkel He 59 was a pleasant aircraft to fly; deficiencies noted were the weak engine, the limited range, the small load capability and insufficient armament.


The aircraft was of a mixed-material construction. The wings were made of a two-beam wooden frame, where the front was covered with plywood and the rest of the wing was covered with fabric. The box-shaped fuselage had a fabric-covered steel frame. The tail section was covered with lightweight metal sheets.

The keels of the floats were used as fuel tanks - each one holding 900 L (240 US gal; 200 imp gal) of fuel. Together with the internal fuel tank, the aircraft could hold a total of 2,700 L (710 US gal; 590 imp gal) of fuel. Two fuel tanks could also be placed in the bomb bay, bringing the total fuel capacity up to 3,200 L (850 US gal; 700 imp gal). The propeller was fixed-pitch with four blades.


During the first months of World War II, the He 59 was used as a torpedo- and minelaying aircraft. Between 1940 and 1941 the aircraft was used as a reconnaissance aircraft, and in 1941-42 as a transport, air-sea rescue, and training aircraft. Some had been operated by the Condor Legion in Spain during the Spanish Civil War in 1936 as coastal reconnaissance and torpedo floatplanes.

The British claimed that because the air-sea rescue aircraft were being used for reconnaissance, they were legitimate targets despite carrying Red Cross markings. Even before then some had been forced down by British aircraft.[2]

The Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force) rented four aircraft from Germany in August 1943. These were used to ferry long-range reconnaissance patrols behind enemy lines. They were returned to Germany four months later.




  • He 59a : first prototype.
  • He 59b : second prototype.
  • He 59A : test and evaluation aircraft. 14 built.[1]
  • He 59B-1 : 16 pre-production aircraft.
  • He 59B-2 : improved version.
  • He 59B-3 : reconnaissance aircraft.
  • He 59C-1 : unarmed trainer
  • He 59C-2 : air-sea rescue model
  • He 59D-1 : combined trainer and air-sea rescue model
  • He 59E-1 : torpedo bomber trainer
  • He 59E-2 : reconnaissance trainer
  • He 59N : navigation trainer produced as He 59D-1 conversions

Specifications (He 59B-2)Edit

Data from Warplanes of the Third Reich[3]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 4
  • Length: 17.4 m (57 ft 1 in)
  • Wingspan: 23.7 m (77 ft 9 in)
  • Height: 7.1 m (23 ft 4 in)
  • Wing area: 153.2 m2 (1,649 sq ft)
  • Empty weight: 5,010 kg (11,045 lb)
  • Gross weight: 9,119 kg (20,104 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 × BMW VI 6.0 zu[a] V-12 liquid-cooled piston engines, 492 kW (660 hp) each
  • Propellers: 4-bladed fixed-pitch propellers


  • Maximum speed: 221 km/h (137 mph, 119 kn)185
  • Range: 942 km (585 mi, 509 nmi)
  • Ferry range: 1,530 km (950 mi, 830 nmi) with auxiliary tanks
  • Service ceiling: 3,500 m (11,500 ft)
  • Time to altitude:
1,000 m (3,281 ft) in 4 minutes 42 seconds
2,000 m (6,562 ft) in 11 minutes 12 seconds


  • Guns: 3 × 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 15 machine guns in nose, dorsal and ventral positions
  • Bombs:
    • 2× 500 kg (1,100 lb)
    • 4 × 250 kg (551 lb)
    • 20× 50 kg (110 lb) bombs
    • 1 × 800 kg (1,764 lb) torpedo

See alsoEdit

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists



  1. ^ In the designation 6 indicates a compression ratio 6:1, z - Zenith carburetor, u - propeller reduction gear
  1. ^ a b Green 1962, p.68
  2. ^ Nesbitt, The Battle of Britain
  3. ^ Green 1972, p. 277.


  • Green, William. War Planes of the Second World War: Volume Six: Floatplanes. London: Macdonald, 1962.
  • Green, William. Warplanes of the Third Reich. New York: Doubleday, 1972. ISBN 0-385-05782-2.
  • Kalevi Keskinen, Kari Stenman, Klaus Niska: Meritoimintakoneet - Suomen ilmavoimien historia 15, Apali Oy, Tampere 1995, ISBN 952-5026-03-5
  • Mombeek, Eric & Roba, Jean-Louis (May 1997). ""Grandes godasses" sur la Méditerranée: les Heinkel He 59 de la Légion Condor" ["Big Shoes" over the Mediterranean: The Heinkel He 59s of the Condor Legion]. Avions: Toute l'aéronautique et son histoire (in French) (74): 31–37. ISSN 1243-8650.

External linksEdit