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General News of Sunday, 27 February 2022


Hanna Reitsch: The German woman who ‘flew’ Kwame Nkrumah

Hanna Reitsch with Kwame Nkrumah play videoHanna Reitsch with Kwame Nkrumah

When Kwame Nkrumah became president in 1957, he set out to develop the Ghana on multiple fronts.

With the country coming out of centuries of colonisation, Pan-Africanist Nkrumah recognized that his dream of setting the country on the right path could remain a mirage if he did not tap relevant expertise from across the world to grow key sectors of the Ghanaian economy.

One cardinal area is the area of power generation. Nkrumah fell on the Italians, through the Impregilo Construction firm, to build the Akosombo Dam which set the country on the path of sustainable power-supply and industrialization.

Some of Nkrumah's other developmental footprints include, building of the Tema Metropolis in 1962, the Tema Harbor and Tema Motorway; as well as the Peduase Lodge, then the University of Science and Technology, as it was then known in 1952 and the Adomi Bridge.

Most of these projects had a mix of local and foreign workers teaming up to build critical infrastructure for the country.

Nkrumah, who by all indications, was clearly ahead of the curve knew that the aviation industry was a key sector of the country that needed growth.

To achieve his aim for the aviation industry, Nkrumah fell on no other person than a German woman who was famed for her role as a test pilot for Hitler in World War II.

The ‘mysterious’ woman who arrived in the country during the 1962 independence celebration was Flight Captain Hanna Reitsch.

When the Daily Graphic captured her arrival with the caption: ‘The Lady Who Dares the Heaven,’ the general assumption was that she was in for a visit and would leave after the anniversary.

But Nkrumah had other plans.

He invited Hanna Reitsch to sell her the idea of relocating to Ghana and overseeing the country’s aviation development.

The German war hero, as she was branded at the time, indeed agreed and pitched camp in Ghana for the rest of Nkrumah’s government.

With Reitsch in the saddle, Nkrumah set in motion his plans for Ghana’s aviation. Historical records show that Reitsch founded the first African national gliding school at Afienya.

While overseeing her training of male and female pilots at the school, Hanna Reitsch also worked with the Ghana Armed Forces as an instructor and imparted her knowledge. Reitsch’s operation in Ghana had the approval of the then West German government.

Reitsch’s official role was a Technical Advisor but she went beyond that. History indicates that she became Nkrumah’s most preferred and trusted pilot.

Between 1962 till 1666 when the Nkrumah government was toppled, Reistch lived in Ghana and flew with Kwame Nkrumah.

Born on 29 March, 1912, Flight Captain Hanna Reitsch died in the August 24, 1979.