Hanna Reitsch
"The Century’s Greatest Pilot"


This book dedicated in loving  memory of Germany’s first female pilot, Amelie “Melli” Beese who was born in 1886. By September 1911, at age 25, she passed her first flying test despite German male pilots of the time who attempted to sabotage her aircraft by:


- draining her fuel tank


- loosening her control wires


- changing-out fresh spark plugs with clogged ones

Despite such adversities, she became the first German female to obtain a pilot’s license  and went on to  build an aircraft of her own that was very similar to the Rumpler-Taube of the time. It was called the Melli Beese “Colombe“. A modified aircraft, it claimed an airspeed of 120 km/h.


Melli subsequently broke several altitude and distance records before opening up her own Flight School by 1912. There, she met her future husband Charles Boutard who was one of the instructors.


By 1913, after having chosen to marry a French aviator and aircraft designer, Charles Boutard, Melli continued operating her  Flight School at Johannisthal which boasted no fatalities (which was rare for that time) and went on to become a flying legend in her own right.

She and her husband designed aircraft, but as fate would have it, war broke out in 1914 and the Boutards’ aircraft were seized as Charles was considered an enemy of the state. Melli held 2 patents at the time - one for a collapsible aircraft and for a flying boat.





MB-MONOPLACE fighter design compared to FOKKER E.I… stolen???




The “Fliegende Boot” had been built at the Yacht-Werft Oertz in Hamburg at the end of 1913. The flying boat was to participate in the Warnemuende Ostseeflug in August 1914, but it was commandeered by Marinekommanatur Warnemuende on August 1, 1914. 


Melli Beese and Charles Boutard were expelled from Flugplatz Johannisthal too, and their Fliegerschule closed. Charles was in and out of prison and Melli was forbidden to design aircraft or to fly. Their businesses closed permanently and Charles resorted to driving taxis postwar.


The war had destroyed two otherwise promising careers for the couple which led to a divorce in the early-1920s.


On December 22, 1925, at age 39, Melli Beese put a pistol to her head and killed herself in despair.


Her motto had been, “Flying is everything, life is nothing”.

~Rob Arndt