Robert Thelen
Frau Direktor Worner & Robert Thelen - 1910
"Engineer Thelen, with Frau Direktor Worner as passenger,
on his Wright Biplane during the Berlin Aviation Week this month."
Legend from Flight Magazine, 29 October 1910, page 892
Courtesy of Dave Lam, 4-26-05

Photo from Jean-Pierre Lauwers
from Jean-Pierre Lauwers
     Robert Thelen soloed in 1909 and by 1910 he had joined the WRIGHT GmbH company in Berlin.
     The photo displayed above is in one of the Wright planes. He is seen in the plane, along with Frau Direktor Worner.
     While he was flying with her, the propeller broke, but he was only 6 meters above the field when it happened, so the crash wasn't that serious.The lady suffered a broken foot, but he wasn't injured.
     The Wright GMBH company in Germany sponsored passenger flights to promote aviation and to help sell their products..They also had their own flight school!
     1912 he started with the Albatros Werke in Berlin as director. During WWI he was chief designer and so on...

from Pete Jones, 4-24-08
Hi Ralph
      It's not too well known but Robert Thelen was Bessie Coleman's flight instructor when she went to Germany to take flying lessons. Coleman, a black woman, was refused flying lessons because of her ethnicity in her native United States so she left for France & Germany to pursue her flight instructions.
     Thelen 1884-1968 obviously lived to a ripe old age of 84 surviving the hazardous pre-world war one aviation era as well as World War One itself. I would wonder if he was interviewed later in his life about his early aviation exploits .

from Dave Lam, 5-112-08
Hi Ralph
      I don't know where this comes from, and I have seen this Germany connection mentioned twice in the past couple of weeks, but as far as all my references show, Coleman got all of her flight instruction in France, and got a French license. I have seen her name associated with Thelin and Fokker, but I really wonder where the concept that she took her flight training in Germany came from?

Daily Journal and Tribune,
Knoxville, Tennessee: May 15, 1910,
Transcribed by Bob Davis - 11-15-03
"Berlin, March 14. - Four aviators fell during the course of the competitions at Johannisthal today. Thorup, a Dane, and Thelen and Jenan, Germans, were not hurt, but Capt. Englehardt was severely injured. All four aeroplanes were wrecked. Capt. Englehardt was a pupil of Orville wright. He had a bad fall last December at the Johannisthal field when his aeroplane lost its balance and plunged to earth."
     Did this pilot learn from Orville while he was in Europe in 1909? I believe the byline date is in error and it is really May 14.
Bob Davis

Karl Hackstetter
Basser's World Record Flight
     From the left: Curt Ungewitter, Rumpler Works Pilot, Flugzeugfuhrer No. 683 from 17.2.1914; Rekordflieger Robert Thelan, Flugzeugfuhrer Nr.9 from 11.5.1910; Hackstetter; Gustav Basser, with a floral wreath on his arm, Flugzeugfuhrer Nr. 354 from 24.1.1913; Rumpler; Werkmeister Schurer; Werner Wieting, Flugzeugfuhrer Nr. 312 from 15.10.1912 ( bildete als Fluglehrer u.a. Gunther Pluschow, den "Flieger von Tsingtau" aus); M. von Stoephasius, Flugzeugfuhrer Nr. 434 from 17.6.1913.
     Gustav Basser had just concluded his world record flight, in a Rumpler of course!
Text and photo courtesy of Rene Hackstetter, 10-30-04

"New Altitude Record,"
Knoxville Journal and Tribune,
Knoxville, Tennessee: March 21, 1914,
Transcribed by Bob Davis - 2-24-07
"Johannisthal, March 20. - The altitude record of 12,303 feet for a flight with three passengers was established today from the aerodrome here by Robert Thelen, the German aviator."

     Using the Google search engine on "Robert Thelen",
you will find one very important link.
Faded Memories: The Wright Brothers and Germany, 1909-1913
Presented by Dr. Guillaume de Syon
Albright College
Reading, Pennsylvania

     This paper, which was presented at a symposium held at the Wright State University in Dayton Ohio on September 28, 2001, is fascinating in its own right. The section which discusses the history of the Wright GmbH company includes a reference to Robert Thelen, described by Orville as "the best pilot they have here," You may go directly to the page by clicking on:
Robert Thelen
You may want to use your "FIND" function to locate the specific reference,
but I think you will want to read the whole story

     If you use the Google search engine on "Albatros Werke" +Thelen, you will find about seven links. A good place to start is on the website of the Smithsonian, National Air and Space Museum. It has several nice pictures of the Albatros D. Va in their collection and a comprehensive revue of the plane's development, characteristics and of Robert Thelen's contributions. To access it, click on:

Robert Thelen died in 1968
Email from Jean-Pierre Lauwers
Editor's Note:
If you have any information on this pioneer aviator
please contact me.
E-mail to Ralph Cooper

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