The story of the HFB 320 Hansa jet, known for its forward-swept wings but never achieved its full potential

  • It was the first business jet to feature forward-swept wings
  • Despite having a modern wing configuration it was plagued with design issues
  • These issues ultimately led to its downfall

Published on May 22, 2024 at 11:34 AM (UTC+4)
by Nalin Rawat

Last updated on May 22, 2024 at 12:08 PM (UTC+4)
Edited by Tom Wood

The HFB 320 Hansa Jet was the first business jet made by Germany.

Its forward-swept wings were one of its many unique characteristics, which limited its success.

In terms of design, it was a bold move to utilize forward-swept wings which were at the time, still a new concept.

Putting the wing box behind the cabin in the Hansa Jet made for more space.

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The HFB 320 Hansa Jet first took to the skies in April 1964.

The testing of the plane went smoothly for a year.

However, tragedy still stuck the plane.

In May 1965, during a certification test, the aircraft went into a deep stall and crashed.

This was just the start of the downward spiral that led to the business jet’s downfall, despite its modern design.

The cause of the crash was the poorly designed T-tail, which was fixed by installing a stick pusher.

However, the Hansa Jet still needed 5,900 feet to take off, which limited the number of airports it could use.

This ultimately led to a lack of sales.

Two commercial airlines tried to put the Hansa Jet into service.

But they both failed as the business jet proved to be financially nonviable.

Another major concern was that the aircraft had really loud engines.

Although they can’t be compared to the sonic booms made by the Concorde, the aircraft was still quite loud.

However, the Hansa Jet was bought by the West German Air Force.

It proved a viable platform to provide electronic warfare/electronic countermeasures (ECM) training.

By the mid-2000s, the times eventually caught up to the HFB 320 Hansa Jet.

The aircraft was finally retired as the cost of upgrading the remaining planes with Hush kits was too high.

Hopefully, the aviation industry learned a lesson that aircraft design is a lot more complicated than it looks.

# Tags - Airplanes, Aviation


Nalin Rawat

Nalin started his career by working with various national newspapers in India. He has also worked as a writer/editor for many popular websites, while still pursuing his journalism and mass communication degree. Working as a digital nomad has allowed him to inform and educate through his work. When he is not writing, you can find him playing video games or travelling the mountains on his bike.