History of the Munich Branch


The following review of the RAeS Munich Branch has been updated after the 25th anniversary of our Munich Branch e.V. and recounts not only the history but also indicates our future activities in the Munich aeronautical environment.

The Royal Aeronautical Society was founded in London in 1866 with the purpose of promoting interest and advances in aviation. It demonstrated its international character by nominating Fellows from a circle of aeronautical pioneers. Otto Lilienthal, one of the first and most famous of the early German aviation pioneers was also elected a “Fellow Member” of the Society in 1873.

Munich Branch had contributed to a special event, commemorating the beginning of Lilienthal’s flight-testing 125 years ago, together with Deutsches Museum Munich/ Flugwerft Schleißheim in January 2016. RAeS HQ was represented by the Past  President AirCDR (ret.) Bill Tyack, who delivered an introductory speech mentioning the challenges in Aviation in those pioneering days and the benefits provided by the Society for this small circle of pioneers.

Munich, as a centre of excellence in Europe for all aspects of aeronautical production and research, both civil and military and with three universities and an airport, which is a major European hub, is a natural location for a Branch of the Society. It is however surprising that it took so long before someone had the initiative to establish a Branch here in Munich. That someone was David Eagles, the then deputy-managing director of Panavia, who called the Branch into being by November 1991. David, now living in UK, is still in contact with our local Branch and is active writing and lecturing about his life in aeronautics, flight testing and managing the first European military multi-national military development programme.

The Early Days

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It was at the beginning of 1991 that David Eagles started the ball rolling by sending out a round-robin letter in order to assess the potential for meeting the Society’s regulations governing the establishment of a new Branch. The response was rewarding and the first meeting took place on 24 March 1991 in Dave Eagles’ office at Panavia. A temporary committee was created with the task of setting up the organisation and making the formal application to the Society for the creation of a Munich Branch. The Society’s Branches approved the application. The Branch therefore officially came into existence on 25 November 1991.

The first full meeting of the Branch - a Special General Meeting attended by the Society’s Vice President, Dr. Darrol Stinton - was held on 5 December 1991 in the Deutsches Museum and the first Branch Committee was elected. This committee was made up of representatives from Panavia, Eurofighter, Dasa, MTU, Eurojet, NAMMA and the Deutsches Museum. It was clear from the very start that the Branch would not be linked to any single organisation but would encompass the full spectrum of the local aerospace community. Early contact was made with the DGLR and full co-operation between the two organisations has been a main feature of the Branch throughout its existence.

As a foretaste of what was to come, Professor Dipl.-Ing.  Gero Madelung presented a lecture to the future Branch on 9 October 1991 entitled “Aeronautical Research in Europe in the 90s and beyond”.

The initial Branch committee had the foresight, in early 1992, to invite Prof.  Madelung, who is an Honorary Fellow of the Society, to become the Branch President. Prof. Madelung accepted the invitation and has been an enthusiastic and active supporter of the Branch ever since.

The Royal Aeronautical Society’s  “Named Lecture” held at the Branch is the Willy Messerschmitt Lecture and the first WML was given by Prof.  Madelung in 1992 on the subject of “The Life and Works of Willy Messerschmitt”. The WML has established itself as a highlight of the Munich aerospace calendar, organised by the RAeS Munich Branch and mainly offered in cooperation with the Deutsches Museum Munich within a special lectures series. The WML is held annually in late autumn in the Hall of Fame (Ehrensaal).

The Branch has also been honoured by the presence of officers from the Messerschmitt foundation and it is a tradition of the local Branch to offer  special guests a dedicated tour of the Messerschmitt heritage “Flying Museum” in Manching, located in the Airbus facility there.

One of the Branch’s first public appearances was at the opening of the Deutsches Museum’s new aeronautical site at the Flugwerft Oberschleißheim in 1992. A short time was  spent to organise the Branch and a priority task during this period was to establish the Branch as a registered German “eingetragener Verein”. This was an important step, not only for the tax benefits which it brings, but also to indicate that the Branch is not only an outpost of the UK, but has grown to be an established local German organisation. Creating a Branch constitution which met the requirements of both the Society and the German authorities turned out to be much more of a challenge than was originally thought but perseverance was rewarded and the Branch achieved its status as e.V. on 31stMarch 1994. The aim of the Verein, as defined in its constitution is: “Vermittlung und Verbreitung von aktuellem Fachwissen auf dem Gebiet der Luft- und Raumfahrt in der Öffentlichkeit“.

The Branch has always seen itself as a “European” Branch with the aim of covering all aspects of aeronautics, historical as well as state-of-the-art, in relation to European cultures and the interactions between European nations. This has been cemented by annual excursions to the most important places of  historical and present day aeronautics in both Germany and Europe.

The main activities of any Branch are its lectures and in this respect Munich is no exception. A very wide variety of lectures are offered with lecturers coming not only from the UK and Germany, but also from other parts of Europe and the USA. With an extensive range of aerospace organisations in the Munich area the Branch also offers an enviable programme of visits. These have included places of general engineering interest such as in aircraft manufacturing, aircraft structures testing, optics & electro-optics, automotive, and electronic warfare.

The visit programme has been enhanced by regular visits to locations outside Germany and the way the Branch has been made universally welcome everywhere it has travelled in Europe demonstrates the respect in which the Society is held throughout the aerospace community. The high standard of professionalism of the Branch members has always been demonstrated on visits by the quality of the questions asked and the genuine interest shown in all the places visited.

The initial membership consisted mainly of ex-pat Brits serving in Panavia, Eurofighter, NAMMA, NEFMA, Turbo-Union, Eurojet  and Eurocopter, but this very soon grew to include many local members. This has resulted in a membership that is a mixture of Society members and local Verein members. Today the situation has reversed and the membership is international but consists mainly of German members. In recognition of this fact many lectures are now held in German although the preferred language remains English.

The RAeS Munich Branch e.V. has also contributed in many ways also to the main society by making suggestions for members to be elected as Fellows, supporting with lecture proposals, hosting events, lecturers and special guests.

The new Millenium

Keith Mans, the RAeS HQ Managing Director, made the first of his five visits to Munich in 1999 and this marked the start of a stable period for both the Society and the Munich Branch. The Society introduced a new logo in 1999 and adopted a more international culture especially with regard to Europe where several new Branches were opened, including Hamburg as the second German Branch.

As early as 1999 the Branch launched its presence on the World Wide Web and established its own website at www.raes-munich.de, as a means of keeping its members up-to-date with information about the activities of the Branch.

A major step, which established the Branch very much as it is today, was the change of lecture venue in 1998 from the Technical University Munich premises in the Arcisstrasse to the magnificent new facilities in Garching and the integration of the Branch in the Forum Munich Aerospace (formerly the Forum der Luft- und Raumfahrt München). The Forum is organised by the TUM and offers a combined programme of lectures from the University, DGLR, VDI, AIAA and the Munich Branch in the premises of the Technical University Munich in Garching. This is a practical example of the integration of the Branch in the local aerospace community and acts to the benefit of all parties. The Branch has access to a wider variety of events, and in return, has a larger audience for its own lectures. This has been clearly demonstrated by the dramatic increase in lecture attendance since Branch lectures have been held at the TUM as part of the Forum programme.


In 2000 one of the Branch committee members, Brian Drewitt, was elected to the Society Branches Committee, enhancing the links between the Branch and the Society Headquarters in London. Brian served on the Branches Committee until 2009 when another Munich Branch member, Franz-Josef Enzinger was elected in his place. Franz served on the Branches Committee until the end of 2011 until his premature death so the Munich Branch was represented on the Branches Committee continuously for 12 years.

The Branch tended to concentrate more on military aviation owing to its roots and contacts. During his initial visit to Munich the Director had a meeting with Adrian Hunt FRAeS, CEO of Deutsche BA, and persuaded him to enrol Deutsche BA as a Corporate Partner. The following year the Branch elected Adrian as its Branch Chairman. This provided the “missing link” to the civil aviation field and Munich Airport and during Adrian’s time as Chairman the Branch received many interesting lectures on civil aviation topics. We were very sad to hear of Adrian’s premature death in December 2005 only shortly after he had returned to the UK to retire.

In 2002 Gerhard Henselmann organised a successful visit to Moscow, by far the most adventurous visit which the Branch had attempted so far.

In 2003 Roger Jevons received the Society’s Branches Award in recognition of his work for the Munich Branch. The Chief Executive, Keith Mans, presented the award at the dinner following the 2004 Willy Messerschmitt lecture.

In 2004 the British RoyalAeronautical Society awarded Professor Dr.-Ing. Guenter Kappler, an renowned aero engine scientist, manager and professor with a wide range of entrepreneurial activities, living in the Munich area for some time, with the Gold Medal. He is still active in business life and participates in the local Branch events.

Munich Branch experienced many particular highlights such as a lecture (2003) by Marsha Ivins, NASA astronaut, or testpilotKlaus-Dietrich Flade, ESA astronaut and cosmonaut on the MIR mission, the SR71 testpilot Roger Smith and many other high-ranking lecturers and lectures.

In 2008 the Branch celebrated the 80th birthday of its President Prof. Gero Madelung with a dinner in the magnificent setting of the Kleinen Sitzungssaal der Münchener Rathaus. The Branch was especially fortunate to obtain such a venue and this was thanks to the contacts of the Branch Chairman Gerhard Henselmann and his wife Anita. This event was attended by the Society President David Marshall and leading representatives from all clusters of the Munich aerospace community.

In 2009 the Branch hosted the annual Branches Conference in Munich. This was a prestige event attended by representatives from 28 Branches from as far away as Australia. It was attended by the outgoing Chief Executive Keith Mans and the Society President Capt. Dave Rowlands.

At the end of 2009 Keith Mans was back in Munich as part of his farewell tour. His attendance at the WML in the Deutsches Museum Ehrensaal gave the Branch the opportunity at a dinner afterwards to thank Keith for his valuable support to the Branch over his eleven years as Director.

During this period the Munich Branch welcomed not only Keith Mans (five visits) but also Presidents Stuart John, Lee Balthazor, David Marshall (two visits), Dave Rowlands, the Deputy Director Andrew Little (two visits) and the Regional Affairs Manager Scott Phillips (two visits).

The Branch recognises the need to instil in young people an interest in aeronautics and has recently established a Young Members Section and is in contact with the Bavarian Ministry of Education with a view to participating in a project to inform 14-16 year old schoolchildren about possible future careers in aerospace.

Today and the future

Owing to the combined efforts of all the committees over the last 25 years, the RAeS Munich Branch has matured into a valuable asset to the local aerospace community. It has established a reputation for the quality of its events. It is run by an enthusiastic committee with representatives from a wide variety of local organisations.

Membership has been stable for most of the last 25 years with around 150 members of the e.V. and up to 50 Society members. The Munich Branch e.V. is an independent German Verein whose activities are self-financed through membership subscriptions.

In the recent years we were proud to host the Society’s Presidents Mrs  Jenny Body, AirCDR Bill Tyack, Prof. Dr Chris Atkin, who beside honouring  the Munich Branch activities with their presence, took the challenge of delivering  lectures and speeches with the true spirit of the internationally  established Royal Aeronautical Society. We will continue this positive approach and will look for being represented again in the community of the RAeS Branches Committee. All those events, which are challenges if anyone having to carry them out alone, are strongly supported by the Committee and active members. Thus we look forward to being present in future aeronautical and aerospace events, contributing to the lecture forum and  identifyingthe best candidates for promotion within and for Awards fromthe RAeS.

Students, Young Engineers and aeronautics fanatics are very welcome, as well as the engineers, aerospace employees in civil and military environments, managers and those retired.

We returned at the end of October 2016 from our annual excursion, a fantastic tour of the aerospace environment inFlorida/ USA, organised by our members Hal and Deborah Freybe together with our Hon. Treasurer Roger Jevons - Every participant on this journey gave clear feedback – “we need to remind ourselves of  the historical past and the challenges overcome in order to provide a basis for future progress and challenges”. Therefore, it is up to us to facilitate the transfer of  know-howand skills transfer between the Seniors and the Youngsters and to support the tradition of “keep them flying” for  manned and, in future, even unmanned or optionally piloted air vehicles.


Think about this and join us with all your enthusiasm, either as a member or in our dedicated team making all those stories mentioned happen.

Special Thanks

The Branch does not have a “home” of its own and therefore relies on the support of local organisations. Facilities have been made available to the Branch and for this we must express our special thanks and appreciation to:

  • Munich Technical University, Garching
  • University of the Bundeswehr Munich, Neubiberg
  • Deutsches Museum München(Town Centre  and Flugwerft Schleissheim)
  • AIRBUS(formerly  MBB, Dasa and EADS) with its facilities in Ottobrunn, Donauwoerth, Manching

A voluntary organisation relies entirely on its committee of volunteers who give up their valuable free time to run the Branch. We must especially thank our long-term volunteers and Committee members and  Prof. Gero Madelung and Klaus Peters  (founding committee members elected on 5th  Dec 1991), who are still serving the Branch as  active members  of the committee today, and all the board and committee members as well as the Webmaster and You - the vital members of our Branch life.

We must not forget the contributions made by the Messerschmitt Foundation and the pioneer  after whomour annual special lecture is named – Professor Willy Messerschmitt.


We also remember with gratitude Horst Zeisig, who died on 3 September 2011, for his dedication to the Munich Branch as the Hon. Treasurer for 17 years, for his organisation of many lectures and visits and especially for his skill in dealing with the intricacies of the e.V. regulations with the relevant institutions of the Finanzamt and Amtsgericht.