Heinkel He 70

The Heinkel He 70 is a German mail plane and fast passenger aircraft of the 1930s, that also saw use in auxiliary bomber and reconnaissance roles. It had a relatively brief commercial career before it was replaced by types which could carry more passengers. The He 70 was a leading design for its day, setting eight world speed records by the beginning of 1933.

Heinkel He 70
Class Aircraft
Type Bomber
Manufacturer Heinkel
Origin Germany
Country Name Origin Year
Germany 1932
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Germany 1933 View
Hungary View
Japan View
Spain 1933 1954 View
Switzerland View
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Heinkel 324 View

The Heinkel He 70 Blitz (lightning) was designed in the early 1930s to serve as a fast mailplane for Deutsche Luft Hansa. The He 70 was developed in response to a Deutsche Luft Hansa request for a faster aircraft than the Lockheed Vega and Orion (as used by Swissair) for employment on short routes.

It was a low-wing monoplane, with the main characteristics of its revolutionary design its elliptical wing, which the Günther brothers had already used in the Bäumer Sausewind sports plane before they joined Heinkel, and its small, rounded control surfaces. In order to meet the demanding speed requirements, the design minimised drag, with countersunk flush rivets giving a smooth surface finish and a retractable undercarriage, a novel feature for a German aircraft. It was powered by a BMW VI V-12 engine, cooled by ethylene glycol rather than water, allowing a smaller radiator and therefore reducing drag. The pilot and radio operator were seated in tandem, with a cabin housing four passengers on two double seats facing each other.

The first prototype flew on 1 December 1932, and proved to have excellent performance, setting eight world records for speed over distance, and reaching a maximum speed of 377 km/h (222 mph).

Luft Hansa operated He 70s between 1934 and 1937 for fast flight service which connected Berlin with Frankfurt, Hamburg and Cologne, as well as on the Cologne/Hamburg route.

He 70s were flown abroad from Stuttgart to Seville between 1934 and 1936. The route was part of the South America mail service provided by Luft Hansa that continued via Bathurst, The Gambia to Natal, Brazil, using Junkers Ju 52/3m and Dornier Wal flying boats.

Remaining aircraft were transferred to the Luftwaffe in 1937.

Military use

Twenty-eight aircraft were sent with the Legion Condor, where they were used during the Spanish Civil War as fast reconnaissance aircraft. Their high speed gave them the nickname Rayo (lightning).

The He 70K (later He 170), a fast reconnaissance airplane variant was used by the Royal Hungarian Air Force in early World War II during 1941-42. The Luftwaffe operated He 70s from 1935, initially as a light bomber and reconnaissance aircraft. As soon as purpose build designs became available, it was relegated as a liaison and courier aircraft.

The main weakness of the He 70 in military use was that crews considered it a fire risk. Elements of the airframe were made out of so-called "Elektron (alloy)", though the majority of the monocoque fuselage was Duralumin. Elektron is a very light, yet strong, alloy of magnesium, which burns readily when ignited, and is difficult to extinguish. Moreover, the wings contained a 47-gallon fuel tank apiece, which may have further added to the aircraft's reputation for being flammable. A single hit from a light machine gun is reputed to have usually set the entire plane ablaze. The Hungarian He 170A (a military version derived from the He-70 with a new WM-K-14 radial engine), fleet was retired for this and other reasons, including poor defensive armament, short range and poor view from the cabin, and replaced with vintage, high-wing He 46 monoplanes, until modern Bf 109 fighter-recce and specialized Fw 189 "Uhu" medium altitude observation aircraft could be introduced.

Role Mail plane, Passenger
National origin Germany
Manufacturer Heinkel Flugzeugwerke
First flight 1 December 1932
Introduction 1933
Retired 1954 Spanish Air Force
Primary users Luft Hansa
Royal Hungarian Air Force
Number built 324 + license-built in Hungary

General characteristics

  • Crew: 3 (pilot, radio operator and dorsal gunner)
  • Length: 11.70 m (38 ft 4? in)
  • Wingspan: 14.80 m (48 ft 6?.75 in)
  • Height: 3.10 m (10 ft 2 in)
  • Wing area: 36.50 m² (392.9 sq ft)
  • Empty weight: 2,360 kg (5,203 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 3,386 kg (7,450 lb)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 3,500 kg (7,700 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1 × BMW VI 7.3 Z water-cooled V12 engine, 750 PS (552 kW)
  • Propellers: metal, two-bladed


  • Maximum speed: 360 km/h (195 knots, 224 mph) at sea level
  • Cruise speed: 295 km/h (159 knots, 183 mph)
  • Range: 2,100 km (1,135 nmi, 1,305 mi)
  • Service ceiling: 5,300 m (17,390 ft)
  • Climb to 1,000 m (3,300 ft: 2.5 min
  • Climb to 4,000 m (13,125 ft): 15 min


  • Guns: 1 × 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 15 machine gun aimed from rear cockpit
  • Bombs: 6 × 50 kg (110 lb) or 24 x 10 kg (22 lb) bombs internally

End notes