Klaus Holighaus was born at July 14th, 1940 in Eibelshausen in Hesse, but quickly became incorporated in his new home state Baden-Württemberg. At the age of ten, he built his first flying models and already proved in 1959 that he would be a persistent pilot by achieving an endurance record of 6 hours and 11 minutes with a remote controlled glider model at the ridge of Hirzenhain. After finishing school in 1960, he went to the Technical University of Darmstadt to study mechanical engineering - and to join the Darmstadt Academic Flying Group "Akaflieg".

University, Akaflieg

Being part of the famous "Darmstädter Schule", together with Gerhard Waibel, Wolf Lemke and Heiko Friess he designed the glider D-36. Engaged by Martin Schempp and while finishing his Diploma Thesis, he designed altered the design of the "Standard Austria SH1" to the "SHK". Encouraged by those contacts, he successfully applied for a position as design engineer at Schempp-Hirth in 1965. During this year, he applied his knowledge and the gained experience to create the successful Cirrus.

First Own Designs

Despite his many daily duties, Klaus would be slowed down. In a strenuous effort, he built the Nimbus-1 with 22 meters wing span and flaps that George Moffat flew when he became World Champion in Marfa in 1970. Next was the Standard Cirrus, which was built in many versions and became the necessary base of the company's success, securing the jobs of a loyal work force. It would soon be followed by the Nimbus-2.

With his creative energy, Klaus could inspire people and win them for his works. This allowed him to gather a team of highly competent engineers around him. First came Dipl. Ing. Jürgen Laude, followed by Dipl. Ing. Helmut Treiber and, some time later, Dipl. Ing. Eberhard Schott. All of them brought both know-how and dedication into the company and optimally supported Klaus Holighaus' drive.

With a powerful team like this, he could realize his ambitious project of building the high-permance two-seater Janus.

At that time, building the Janus was a brave and visionary decision that has been driving the companies business up to today. Despite the success of these designs, he was always seeking ways to improve everything. With the help of Helmut Treiber, carbon fibre was introduced into Schempp-Hirth in 1978 as a groundbreaking improvement.


His business engagement was similar to that of his engineering side. In 1969, he took over responsibility for the production, in 1972 he became CEO and by 1977 he had taken over all of Schempp-Hirth's shares. The following models Ventus, Nimbus-3, Discus, Duo Discus, Ventus-2 and Nimbus-4 are the result of great team work under his lead and are the roots of Schempp-Hirth's success to up to the present day.

The Pilot

Klaus Holighaus' love of gliding was the primary source for his ideas. He ideally combined his talents as designer, sportsman and business man in one person, allowing him to gather many other top pilots around him. Pilots like Harro Wödel, George Moffat, Göran Ax, George Lee, Ingo Renner, Kees Musters, Leo Brigliadori, Bruno Gantenbrink, Eric Napoleon, Reinhard Schramme and Werner Meuser won many championship titles on his designs.

He himself was four-time German Champion. His international results were just as impressive: With 4 titles at European Championship, one Vice-Championship and many world records he was one of the most successful glider pilots of his time.

Around 7pm at August 9th, 1994, he died crashed against the rocks of the Swiss Rheinwaldhorn, half an hour flight time from his departure airfield Samedan in Switzerland, where he spent some of his summer holidays. He left behind his wife Brigitte and his two suns Tilo and Ralf, which have been continuing his company since then.