The company was initially called "Sportflugzeugbau Göppingen Martin Schempp". In 1938, Wolf Hirth, mainly responsible for the design work, officially became a partner in the company, which then became "Sportflugzeugbau Schempp-Hirth". The company relocated to Kirchheim unter Teck the same year.
During World War II, the company built DFS Habicht training gliders, as well as tailplane assemblies for the Messerschmitt Bf 109. The company also built a research aircraft, the Göppingen Gö 9 to investigate Claude Dornier's rear-mounted "pusher" propeller plans. With its cruciform tail, this aircraft was to be a stepping-stone towards the revolutionary Dornier Do 335 Pfeil.
After the war, forbidden by the allied occupation from building aircraft, the company manufactured beds, wheelbarrows, radio cabinets, and other furniture. In 1951, the prohibitions were lifted and the company returned to sailplane building.
Wolf Hirth died in 1959 but it was not until 1964 that Martin Schempp found a new designer: Klaus Holighaus who had just graduated from Darmstadt Technical University, where he was a member of its Akaflieg. Holighaus was also an excellent pilot and became a regular member of the German gliding team.
Additional technical expertise was recruited in 1970 and Holighaus became Chief Executive in 1972. From 1977 Holighaus was the sole owner of the business.
After Holighaus's death in a gliding accident in 1994, control of the company passed to his widow and sons, all of whom are keen glider pilots.
It employs about 100 people, and is currently managed by Tilo Holighaus and Brigitte Holighaus.
The company has often sub-contracted work, and has issued licences for other companies to build its designs.
Schempp-Hirth aircraft include: