"Hi Koen: I edited two books for David Myhra on the
Hortens' developments. One of the books contained extensive
interviews with people who built, and flew the various
In answer to your questions, here's my recollection of the
Was it easy to get in and out?
Yes....dorsal hatch over the pilot's back could be
released in flight and just 'blow away' from the plane, allowing
quick egress in emergencies. The seat belt holding the pilot
to the seat also was a quick release; one could then invert the
aircraft (at altitude), or just go into a gentle climb and push
yourself away from the airframe prior to stall.
Was it hard to adjust to this kind of seating?Each aircraft
had a short 'range' of the seat structure that would accommodate
pilots of different heights. Seat pitch was mostly 'fixed'
re: angles at waist and knees, etc. to ensure best comfort and
blood circulation. Seat configurations and pod lengths had to
be modified and made longer for taller pilots. This also
affected center-of-gravity and placement of counterweights to
ensure the C/G remained in proper location.
Was it comfortable?
Most all pilots reported the prone seating position to be
VERY comfortable. Rudi Opitz flew the sailplanes both in
Germany during the 1930s, and he also competed in a U.S. National
soaring contest here, using a Horten IV (1952, I believe). He
flew for hours at a time on all contest days and I don't recall his
reporting fatigue; he just got lost in the vast expanses of the
countryside a couple of times and had to land out, losing points.
Otherwise, he might have won the Nationals that year; he was
third, I believe.
Did you expect to get tired neck after a long time? (This
one really puzzles me. Hang glider pilots don't have this problem,
I was told.)
The Hortens were equipped with padded chin rests that took
the strain off the neck....like putting your head into a pillow
when sleeping on your stomach. The head and chin also were
slightly lower than the upper torso, which made the head/chin
position quite 'natural' and comfortable... This resulted
from much experimentation by Reimar on best ergonomic pilot
positions for long endurance flight. I can't speak to hang
glider pilots' experience. Al Bowers could best comment on
that; he's experienced.
What is the difference between both head
Basically the difference between lying down in a padded,
reasonably form-fitting couch, with your knees in padded cups and
your calves at about a 30-degree angle up behind you....with your
toes dropped into stirrups on the rudder pedals to help hold them
in place while flying. All of the seat (couch) was aluminum
contour, with good, comfortable padding material that 'breathes' to
allow airflow to the body. The chin is positioned in the chin
rest (mentioned above) to mitigate stress and strain needed to
'hold' the chin in a raised position while lying down (which over
time would become VERY uncomfortable and stressful on neck
muscles). In a 'normal' upright pilot position, the head is
held in position by neck and upper torso muscles. The body's
designed for this, so stress isn't normally an issue.
How was the steering bar? Felt good in hand? To close to
body? Was it weird to have your elbows pointing
Can't comment on this, other than to say that Rudi Opitz
seemed to really enjoy flying the IV; he said it was restful.
Of course he was an "innovative" pilot, ready and willing to
try anything. He was the Messerschmitt company test pilot on
the Me-163, so that was pretty innovative, too. I suspect
compared to the drama of flying a chemical 'bomb', tailless wooden
fighter plane with no landing gear (only a skid) at 500+ miles per
hour, flying the restful Horten IV probably was a pleasure, no
matter what slight discomfort there might have been in doing so,
comparatively. You could probably build yourself a little
'working model' of the cockpit of the IV and experience these
things for yourself. We're all intrigued by the same
questions. When I was on an inventory research discovery
session at the National Air & Space Museum with a small team
from the Vintage Sailplane Association here, back in the 1970s, we
found (crated) the center section of the Horten VI, with the wings
(also crated) closeby. I could have shinnied into the crate
and lay down on the couch to get the feel of the cockpit and
controls, but was prevented from doing so by the curator
accompanying us (and the bird droppings covering the crate boards
and the plane, as well as the delicate 'aged' nature of the
airframe and fabric). I'm 5-feet 8 inches in height (about
'normal' I guess, compared with standard German pilots' heights in
the 1930s). Rudi Opitz and I were about the same height, and
he flew the VI once or twice, as I recall. The control bar
was fairly close to the chest, from my observation. So also
the flap and spoiler handles. But nothing was "weird" except
the instruments were on a panel imbedded in the wing root on the
port side, had faces in 'reverse', and were read via a small mirror
in front of the pilot's eyes. Very creative method of putting
them where they had 'room' and out of the pilot's forward vision --
so critical on a landing approach.
Hope this is helpful to you... Best regards,Geoff