Paul Rudolf Opitz
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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

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Published in Connecticut Post on May 9, 2010.
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May 3, 2020
Quite by chance, I began looking through photographs of past events LAST NIGHT (!! -- no accident) and found many from the first Flying Wing Seminar, held in July of 1997, sponsored by the National Soaring Museum in Elmira, New York. Rudy was a speaker at that event and shared a bit about his flying a Horten IV flying wing -- first in Germany in the 1940s -- then later at a national soaring competition here at Hobbs, New Mexico, I believe, in the 1950s. He was leading the competition, but got lost on the 3rd or 4th day and had to 'land out', costing him a loss of precious points. But he proved the flying wing design was a very able competitor in capable hands. And with this particular German flying wing design, the pilot didn't sit 'upright'; he lay on his stomach in a prone position for several hours at a time, with head forward -- looking ahead through the plexiglass canopy. Rudy's recollection of the circumstances of that event was 'energetic' and captivating.
I'd met Rudy for the first time perhaps 15 years earlier, at the National Soaring Convention in Washington, D.C., where a group of us from the Vintage Sailplane Association interviewed Rudy and Peter Riedel in a hotel room about their experiences in WWII years. Especially Rudy flying the Me-163 in combat -- but focusing mostly on this unique flying wing fighter's characteristics and performance. Under rocket power, he described it like "holding on to a bullet", but then as a glider (when the rocket propellant was exhausted), he described its flying qualities as docile and gentle -- very easy and responsive in flight.
Rudy came to the Flying Wing Seminar with his son, Martin, as by then Rudy was experiencing some health challenges, so his son's presence was helpful and supportive. I recall that after his talk, Rudy got a well- deserved standing ovation from those gathered. Then, with many admiring friends from the soaring community around him, Rudy energetically engaged in conversation and graciously signed his autograph to photographs of him in several different books about the Me-163 aircraft. Rudy was a TRUE gentleman, and gave much to aviation -- one of the many passions of his life. He is missed. Recalled by Geoff Steele; Vintage Sailplane Assocation (VSA); May 3, 2020.
Geoff Steele
June 22, 2019
Martin and Michael if you receive this note I will be amazed as its years later. My name is Robert Butch Davis and I was fortunate to have known and flown with Rudy for at least four years or more. I was the Corporate Pilot flying the Queen Air for Lycoming Stratford and became assigned to Flight Test. We flew together in the Queen Air the AJ-2 and I got several rides in the Huey Helicopter and he also took me for a ride in the Glider. We had a trip to Texas and visited Martin when he was in the Air Force. I have been living in Georgia for the past twenty six years and just learned of Rudys passing and feel terrible to learn this. Im so sorry for all the Family. Martin if you get this and are interested you can text me at 770-630-5785, thanks.
Robert Davis
May 18, 2010
Dear Mike, Marty, and Opitz Family, Bonnie and I met Rudy and you in the Nutmeg Soaring Association in 1970. Rudy gave my glider instructor flight test in June 1971. He was our friend, and my mentor as a pilot and instuctor. I will always cherish his kind guidance. Best wishes to you all. Jim Yankaskas
Jim Yankaskas
May 10, 2010
My deepest condolences to the Opitz family,

I only had the briefest handshake with Rudy at the 1997 National Soaring Museum Nurflugel Conference but I have admired him for years. I thoroughly enjoyed his antidotes about flying the 163 and still remember the twinkle in his eye, the mark of a man who thoroughly enjoyed his life. I will always regret never having had the opportunity of being taught soaring by such a master. May he rest in peace with all the other giants of aviation.
Dennis Karoleski
May 10, 2010
Mr. Opitz and Dr. Franz and I met in Avco Lycoming's Stratford flight test hanger when I was a young engine project certification engineer of FAA.
News of Mr. Opitz's passing brings fond memories of his genuine warmth and enthusiasm for all related to aviation.
Donald Perrault
May 10, 2010
Dear Opitz Family: I was very privileged to meet Rudy first at the SSA Convention in Washington, DC, in the 1970s, and then again at the Flying Wing Seminar at Elmira, NY, in 1997. He was truly a gentleman and a great pilot. He signed his full-page photo in my book about the development of the Me-163 and I was blessed to be able to call him a friend. He will be missed very much here, but I look forward to soaring with him in the time to come... My deepest regard and expression of love and condolence to all of you. Geoff Steele (founding President of the Vintage Sailplane Association).
Geoff Steele
May 10, 2010
Dear Opitz Family
I was saddened to read of Rudy's passing. Recently my co-workers found an old photo album and had great fun with photos from the 1980's. Photos of the AJ-2 and one of Marty curled up in the nose of Aztec. It brought up fond memories of Rudy and Marty.
I will always remember Rudy as a kind and gentle man. Always willing to help others. A person of great humility who showed so many of us how to accept life as it comes. I am a better person because our lives crossed. God bless you Rudy.
I pray your burden of grief will be lifted in time and that you all once again enjoy life to its fullest as I believe Rudy would have wished.
My deepest sympathy
Dave Laborde
David Laborde
May 10, 2010
Please accept my deepest sympathies for your loss. Rudi was a great fellow, a great pilot, and I was fortunate to meet him when he came to Huntsville, Al for Soaring Conference a number of years ago.
Otha H "Skeet" Vaughan
Lt Col USAFR-Ret
May 10, 2010
dear Opitz family
wonderful flying memories of rudy and his help with the danielson soaring assoc. jim hendricks avco dc3 pilot
May 9, 2010
Dear Mike,Martin,& Family,am sorry at your Dads passing.He will be TRULY missed by many. I shall always remember him with such a warm smile ,and a kind word for all. If you can remember,I lived around the corner from you and we also were in scouts together. 35+ years later,I introduced my son to your father at an autograph session. My son is also enthused with aircraft. My sincere condolences. He Finally is in Heaven. God Bless you Rudy.
John Vitka
May 9, 2010
John Vitka
May 9, 2010
I never met Rudi Opitz, but I have known of him since childhood. His exploits in the air have been an inspiration to me and others for years. Please accept my most heartfelt condolences.
John Daniel
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