When you see the Messerschmitt Bfl 09 for the first time, what strikes you is how small it is. This legendary fighter airplane that was such a formidable opponent, seems unable to live up to its reputation.
|Book cover finish
|Number of pages
||21 x 30 x 2 cm
|Collection / Series
||Airlife Publishing Ltd
Serving first as a fighter in the Condor Legion of the Spanish Civil War, the Messerschmitt Bf 109 went on to fly with the Luftwaffe on every German front in World War II. It was the aircraft of many of the highest ranking aces in history, and in a variety of modifications and armaments, flew in both air superiority and ground attack roles. Featured here are detailed photographs of magnificently restored airplanes, including the famed "Black Six," an actual combat airplane that flew in North Africa, and historical photographs from the personal collection of Gunther Rall, third-ranking ace in history, with 275 confirmed victories.
When you see the Messerschmitt Bfl 09 for the first time, what strikes you is how small it is. This legendary fighter airplane that was such a formidable opponent, seems unable to live up to its reputation. Compared to the Spitfire, the P-51 Mustang and certainly the P-47 Thunderbolt, it is tiny. As I worked on this book and learned about this famous fighter I discovered the ingenious designs that made this such a versatile tool, and that the skill of the pilot was paramount to its success. The "flying tail", and interconnected flaps are just some of the innovations.
My first encounter with this airplane was while working on the Lancaster book, in this series. The Bf109 G-10 photographed for this book, was being worked on at Duxford. A specialist from Germany was remounting the enormous Daimler-Benz engine onto the airframe. The engine had been removed and rebuilt after a number of mechanical problems that finally led to Mark Hanna having to land the fighter "dead stick", after seizing up completely just after taking off. It is almost hard to believe that a 2,000 horsepower engine could actually be fitted to such a small airplane.
One of the mechanics working on the fighter told me as I was working on this book, that after flying the airplane with the rebuilt engine, that the problems they had been having had vanished. They had been having wartime problems, and when it was torn down to be rebuilt, had found drill bits left inside the engine as well as other less than precise workmanship. The engine had been built by forced labor and was perhaps the target of some inside sabotage.
The subtle and not so subtle differences in aircraft design from World War II are what makes these books so interesting to work on. There is a definite style to the airplanes of different coun-tries. American airplanes are big and functional with large engines, lots of firepower, and protection for the crewmen. British airplanes are curved and graceful, lots of guns but small caliber and the engines make the sweetest sound. The German airplanes have the look of function first, a Teutonic quality about them, engineered to be excellent, huge engines, large guns and not much creature comfort for the crew.
I can't wait to start on the next one.
Dan Patterson May 20, 1997