Rolf Henke joined the DLR Executive Board on 1 November 2010 and is responsible for Aeronautics research. Henke was born in Lüdenscheid in 1956 and studied Aerospace Technology between 1975 and 1980 at the Technical University of Berlin (Technische Universität Berlin; TU Berlin). In 1981, he received a scholarship in the form of a postgraduate bursary from the British Council for a research placement at the Cranfield Institute of Technology (now Cranfield University) in the UK.
From 1980 to 1985, with some interruptions, he worked as a research fellow at the TU Berlin Aerospace Institute. From 1985 to 2006, Henke worked at MBB (Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm, now Airbus Operations). From 1985 to 1992, he was Test Manager for Special Projects, with particular emphasis on laminar flow technology, and went on to take charge of all laminar flow programmes at Airbus between 1992 and 1998. This work also included flight-testing of the Airbus A320. Alongside his work at Airbus, Henke was a lecturer in Aerospace Engineering at Bremen University of Applied Sciences (Hochschule Bremen) from 1992 to 1996. In addition, he worked as Airbus Transnational Coordinator for the 'Technology Area Aerodynamics' during this time. From 1998, he was in charge of the German national concept for Adaptive Wing Technology (Adaptive Flügeltechnologie; ADIF) before becoming Head of Airbus High-Lift Technology in 2000. From 2002 to 2006, he also headed the EU technology platform AWIATOR (Aircraft Wing with Advanced Technology Operation), and was involved in wing technology development, and was a Senior Project Manager and a member of the Airbus Research and Technology Management team. During this time, he was also a co-initiator and founding member of the Steering Committee at the German High-Lift Center (Lenkungskreises Hochauftriebszentrum Deutschland; LHD), set up to safeguard the German work share, and was also Head of the Cluster for Conceptual Aircraft Design (CCAD) at LHD.
In 2006, Henke became Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Technical University of Rhineland Westphalia (Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule; RWTH) in Aachen and Head of the Institute of Aerospace Technology (Institut für Luft- und Raumfahrt; ILR) there. At RWTH Aachen, Henke was involved in design, evaluation and simulation capabilities as well asin the development of a facility for conducting field measurements on aircraft noise emissions. He founded new courses on aircraft design and aircraft systems technology and was a member of various bodies such as the Faculty Council, the Teaching Committee and the RWTH Ethics Commission.
Alongside his work at Airbus and at RWTH Aachen, Henke was also engaged in various other assignments. For example, from 2002 to 2006, he was spokesperson for Germany’s national Fluid Mechanics Working Group (Strömungsmechanische Arbeitsgemeinschaft; STAB) and, since 2013, he is President and a Member of the Senate of the German Society for Aeronautics and Astronautics Lilienthal –Oberth (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Luft- und Raumfahrt – Lilienthal-Oberth; DGLR). Since 2009, he has been a member of the Programme Committee of the International Council of the Aeronautical Sciences (ICAS) as well as a member of the Editorial Board of the Aeronautical Journals of the Council of European Aerospace Societies (CEAS).
Henke will continue to teach through a special professorship at RWTH Aachen.