Legendary aerobatic pilot, small and big screen aviator, competitive skydiver, Lufthansa captain, and Messerschmitt Bf 109 ace, Walter Eichhorn, an octogenarian, is still going strong. He displays his T-6 Harvard and can yet be seen flying at airshows, often with his son, Toni. His remarkable career is a testament to his resilience and his passion and dedication to flying.
Eichhorn, born in 1936, the son of a Luftwaffe maintenance crewman who was stationed in Jever, North Germany, was a witness to the comings and goings of the fighter planes and pilots during WWII. With his front row seat to the flight action, he developed an insatiable desire to become a pilot as well. Because the occupying allies had banned flying after the war, Eichhorn determined he would never be able to fly in Germany. Saving his money, he emigrated to Canada in 1955 where he could realize his dream. After achieving his pilot's license, Eichhorn acquired and flew a Harvard, then, subsequently, expanded his interests to parachuting. He was invited to join the Canadian parachuting Team for the 1964 World Championships at Leutkirch, West Germany as team pilot and again in 1966 at Leipzig. By 1970, he became team member and manager of the national German formation skydiving team called “Walters Voegel” or (“Walter's Birds”). This team won three German Championships and three third-place finishes in the World Championships.
In 1965, Germany beckoned Eichhorn back with the opportunity to become a Lufthansa Pilot. Leaving everything behind including his beloved Harvard, he tested and along with three other candidates, beat out twelve ex-military pilots for the position. In a mere six years, he achieved captain and flew with Lufthansa until he retired at sixty.
Eichhorn had plenty of time for adventures as well as his work. Flying the Lufthansa Ju 52 for 15 years, even in the USA in formation with a newly delivered 737 in Seattle, was a first highlight in flying oldtimers. His childhood dream became reality, training on and flying a Messerschmitt Bf 109 with the legendary Erich Hartmann, a Luftwaffe WWII fighter ace with the most kills in history. A favorite venture was and still is flying at airshows. An early highlight was being part of a 32 ship “Balbo”- formation in Duxford with a P-51. In 1979, after a 1h20 sortie in a TF-104G, he developed a strong dedication for military jet flying and added 8 years of displaying ex-military jets on airshows with L-29s and SOKO Galebs.
His aerobatics have electrified audiences with Eichhorn doing the flying solo and also with his son, Toni in the Red Bull backed father/son Harvard team. Eichhorn displaying the Bf 109 led him into the thrilling opportunity to fly Bf 109s in the films, "Piece of Cake", "Memphis Belle" and in 2007 “Valkyrie” together with Tom Cruise.
His enthusiasm and dedication to any venture he has taken on has stood him well, contributing to a highly successful lifetime of doing what he loves best in life, flying and skydiving.