With the development of LS sailplanes, Wolf Lemke has become a most successful and influencing aircraft designing engineer. He is an authority in the soaring community. This is probably best demonstrated by his cutting-edge standard class glider LS8. Wolf Lemke had developed its aerodynamic design already in the 80s.

As far as I can tell, it has always been a big pleasure to work together with Wolf Lemke. In the past few years we have often contacted him. He was always helpful and he would answer any question about LS gliders.

The German “Magazin LuftSport” kindly allowed us to publish their obituary, composed by Günter Schapka, Gerhard Waibel, Micro Scholz and Wolfgang Binz. Their chronicle very well illustrates Wolf Lemke’s entire creative power.

Holger Back

DG Flugzeugbau GmbH



Obituary – Wolf Lemke


Maiden flight of the LS10, Wolf Lemke and Walter Schneider

Wolf Lemke has passed away on December 1st of 2018, at the age of 80. With his death the soaring community looses one of our most important sailplane designing engineers. He would probably not have desired his life’s work to be qualified with these words, but looking at the history of gliding it is hard to find anybody who is able to work on such a variety of tasks and at the same time be that successful. All his sailplanes have achieved first class performance, while providing good-natured and harmonic flight characteristics, already from the beginning on. The airfoils were entirely designed by Wolf Lemke, a fact highly recognized by his colleagues.

The performance of his gliders has always been striking, right from the start. Wolf’s success story started already with his involvement in the Akaflieg Darmstadt’s D-36, for which he developed the wings. At that time, still being a student at the university, he had drafted a particular airfoil for the D-36 and Professor Wortmann determined that it was as well designed as his latest airfoils.

As member of the Akaflieg Darmstadt he received – like many members before and after him – a nickname. Wolf was called “Lambkin”, an allusion to his calm and patient attitude. Wolf was a man of major but silent gestures: Although he had qualified to fly the D-36 at the German championships in 1964, he committed the participation to his friend Gerhard Waibel. The latter won, he piloted an unbeatably superior sailplane.

After that, it was more or less a lucky coincidence in gliding history that Wolf and Walter Schneider took up an employment together and started the construction of sailplanes at Rolladen-Schneider. This had not really been planned. Wolf had also been offered to work with professor Wortmann at the university in Stuttgart, where he would have taken care of the SB-7’s serial production. But then the first project with Rolladen-Schneider was yet a groundbreaking success. The blend of an ambitious Water Schneider, who always wanted to possess the latest glider and Wolf Lemke’s engineering background, gave birth to the LS1. Right from the start, its first two exemplars came in first and second at the German championships in 1968, and in 1970 Helmut Reichmann could win the WGC with an LS1.

In 1971, Wolf worked on his private project, the LSD Ornith. He therefore used many parts taken from the LS1 construction. It was the first two-seater, built from glass-fiber composites, which soon achieved a number of world records. Wolf Lemke’s next experimental aircraft, the LS2, was to follow. She won the WGC in 1974. But the new sailplane did not offer the targeted good natured flight characteristics and was consequently not produced as series. Instead Wolf demonstrated the experts with his LS1-f that it was well possible to blend first class performance and tame flight qualities and combine this mix with harmonized flight controls. This excellent arrangement later became the LS hallmark, which has found many fans around the world.

Here: Wolf Lemke takes a seat in the LS5 in 2014 Picture: Jutta Scholz

The great work continued with a new creation: LS4. After a long lasting period of stagnancy in the standard class, the LS4 finally took a big step in performance as well as in terms of perfect flight qualities. During contests the sailplane was overwhelmingly successful. You had to fly an LS4 at the WGCs of 1981 and 1983 to be among the first, only LS4 pilots had a chance to win. Wolf Lemke had achieved a striking performance with his own airfoil design. Based on his experience gathered with the LS3 Standard, which had been developed by Hanko Streifeneder, Wolf had designed his LS4. He added further modifications to the LS3-airfoil, and this new aircraft was to be the most successful contest sailplane, not only at that time. Altogether, during over 23 years, 1054 copies were built.

Wolf Lemke repeated his LS4-masterpiece with the design of the LS6. Again he calculated an airfoil based on professor Wortmann’s drafts, all by himself. The LS6 as well became very successful; Doug Jacobs won the WGC in 1985. Two years later, in 1987, LS6 pilots finished first, second and third. And in 1991, LS6 pilots conquered the first four positions.

Many years later, the airfoil used for the flap equipped LS6 again made a splash in the standard class, this time on the LS8. Even without flaps the LS6-airfoil turned out to be way better than others. From 1993 on, the LS8 has always been a successful contestant among standard class gliders. And even today, 25 years after its maiden flight, this is still a true statement.

Besides his strong desire to optimize performance and flight characteristics, Wolf has always advocated pilots’ safety. Airspeed indicators which clearly warn before pulling up to stall speed, simple and safe spin recovery procedures, landing gears that are able to absorb high energies or a safe canopy jettison – all these problems took his interest, and whenever something had to be tested, Wolf was the first to volunteer. For example, he once tried an emergency water landing with an LS1-f on an excavated lake next to the airfield. He simply wanted to learn about the glider’s characteristics under such conditions.

Wolf Lemke still had more big projects for glider pilots in mind. He, who had demonstrated his love for two-seater flying with his LSD Ornith, sought to develop a new two-seater based on the LS. It was supposed to provide comparable flight characteristics and performance. He had finished his concept in the late 80’s. LS4 wings would proportionally be lengthened to 18 m, which would of course have resulted in a larger wing depth. Around 1991 a mock-up fuselage had been built, but Wolf and a number of other project supporters at LS were not able to push it forward. However, many years later, Wolf Lemke became a leading supporter for the Akaflieg Köln when designing their two-seater. It was subsequently named LS11.

Wolf Lemke, retired but still very busy. Picture: Lemke Family

At the end of the year 2001, after more than 36 years with Rolladen-Schneider, Wolf Lemke finally retired. This was the beginning of a new phase in his life. Sailplanes were no longer his main mission; he could spend more time with his family. He travelled a lot. Enjoying nature by the sea made him feel good and saturated his soul.

While enjoying life and retirement he still liked to support development and approval-processes for various sailplane projects around him, like those of the Akafliegs Darmstadt and Köln. He also worked on the approval of a single piece LS5, his dream of an open class super-glider. You may find him here sitting in its cockpit in 2014.

Wolf Lemke has always been a good soul and he was a great buddy. At first glance he might seem a bit reserved, but once you listened to him, you would quickly learn how open minded he was. Wolf had an incredible sense of humor. Whatever he wanted to express, he could precisely put it in a nutshell, and with his personality he could deeply impress people. Dear Wolf, we will truly be missing you! Yet, that’s why you will never really be gone.


Günter Schapka           Werner „micro“ Scholz          Gerhard Waibel          Wolfgang Binz





Courtesy of Magazin LuftSport / Eqip Publishing, Bonn