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Porsche - Cornelius Dornier

Cornelius Dornier

Dornier is the name—that’s right, the same as the legendary early aircraft designer Claude Honoré Desiré Dornier, a gifted German engineer who founded his company in 1922. The company’s Komet and Merkur passenger planes, as well as its Wal (“whale”) and Do X flying boats, made aviation history.

Cornelius Dornier is the grandson of the company’s founder. As a young man, the name was something of a burden to him. He did not want to join the family business, but instead sought an occupation in which his heritage played no role. He entered the field of marketing and held positions such as art director at the Springer & Jacoby agency. Cornelius Dornier wanted to chart his own course—a bold mentality he inherited from his grandfather. When Claude Dornier left the metal industry at the age of twenty-six for the nascent aviation industry a good century ago, that too was a journey into the unknown. These days people often talk about a start-up culture, but there were also a lot of start-ups in the early twentieth century, which was marked by a great enthusiasm for technology. Ferdinand Porsche also left his well-paid director’s positionat Steyr in Austria around that time to found his own company. “Ferdinand Porsche lived for technology, just like my grandfather,” says Dornier. “Both of them were pioneers, and both dealt with setbacks by putting all their energy into new starts.” That spirit inspired Dornier’s grandson, and it prompted him to return to family-related endeavors years later.

Cornelius Dornier was the spokesperson for the Dornier Aerospace Foundation until 2016. The foundation’s best-known project is the Aviation & Aerospace Museum in Friedrichshafen at Lake Constance. Its exhibits focus on the highlights of Dornier history. “It was quite a challenge to have a single museum cover the life of my grandfather, his love of technology, and the Dornier aircraft too, of course,” says Dornier, who led the museum construction project. He glances over to his 1969 Porsche 911 E, which he says makes every kilometer a joy—and again draws a parallel between his grandfather and Ferdinand Porsche—two pioneers in technology. “If Claude Dornier had built sports cars instead of airplanes, he would surely have made something like the Porsche 911. Just like every Porsche, my grandfather’s drafts show that the best design is often a streamlined approach that gets straight to the point.”

By Jürgen Lewandowski
Photos by Dieter Mayr