OPITZ Paul Rudolf (Rudy) Opitz, age 99 of Stratford, entered into rest on Saturday, May 1, 2010 at St. Vincent Hospital, Bridgeport. He was the beloved husband of Hanna Boljahn Opitz for 61 years. He was born on August 9, 1910 in the town of Landeshut, in Silesia Germany. He started his love for flying by joining a local flying club and teaching himself how to fly in a homebuilt glider. After receiving formal instruction in 1932, he entered and placed in several gliding competitions. Between 1941 and 1945, he acted as chief military test pilot for the Me-163A and Me-163B rocket powered interceptor aircraft. He made the first powered flight of the Me-163B, the only rocket powered interceptor aircraft ever to achieve operational status. The Me-163 Komet was a tailless rocket powered interceptor and was the fastest aircraft to see combat in World World II, achieving a top speed of well over 600 MPH in level flight. At the end of World War II, he was recruited by the U.S. Government, ultimately coming to the U.S. to work at Wright Paterson Air Force base as a part of operation Paperclip, the U.S. government operation that brought Dr. Wernher von Braun, Dr. Anselm Franz, and other noted German Scientists to the U.S.A. He became a U.S. Citizen in 1955 and in 1956, he left Wright Patterson to be a test pilot at the newly formed turbine division of Lycoming Co. in Stratford, which was formed by fellow paperclip scientist Dr. Franz. At Lycoming, he worked as Chief of Flight Test Operations supporting the development of gas turbine engines for helicopters and aircraft until his retirement. He also served as an FAA pilot examiner for glider private, commercial, and flight-instructor ratings for over three decades. He loved flying sailplanes and volunteered his time providing thousands of hours of flight instruction as an instructor with Nutmeg Soaring Association, a glider flying club. He was a guest speaker at the National Air and Space Museum and at the USAF Museum on numerous occasions. He periodically was asked to speak at local civic organizations and local chapters of the Experimental Aircraft Association and appeared on the television documentary series Wings of the Luftwaffe. He was a member of the Soaring Society of Dayton, Nutmeg Soaring Association, Soaring Society of America, Quite Birdman Hartford Hangar, International Order of Characters and The Society of Experimental Test Pilots. He was awarded the New England Soaring Council Flight Instructor in 1982, Honorary Fellow Society of Experimental Test Pilots in 1984, Aero Club of New England Connecticut State Award 2007. He was named to the National Soaring Hall of Fame at Elmira, N.Y. in 1994 and FAA Instructor of the Year (New England. Survivors, in addition to his wife, Hanna, include his two sons, Martin Opitz, and Michael Opitz and his wife, Nancy; along with his cherished grandson, Michael Anthony Opitz. He is also survived by several nieces and nephews in Germany. He was predeceased by three brothers and one sister. A memorial service will be held on June 3, 2010 at 10:30 a.m. in Union Cemetery, 23 Temple Court, Stratford. The Riverview Funeral Home, 390 River Rd., Shelton, are entrusted with the arrangements. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in his memory to Macular Degeneration Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 531313, Henderson, NV 89053 or Nutmeg Soaring Association (ref: youth scholarship fund / Rudy Opitz), P.O. Box 1179, Middlebury, CT 06762. To send condolences to the family, please visit www.riverviewfh.com.
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Published in Connecticut Post on May 9, 2010