Messerschmitt 109 - myths and facts - article now out

Discussions on all (non-biographical) aspects of the Luftwaffe air units and general discussions on the Luftwaffe.
Grendel-B
Member
Posts: 39
Joined: 09 Mar 2005 20:56
Location: Finland

Messerschmitt 109 - myths and facts - article now out

Post by Grendel-B » 15 Mar 2005 21:11

Messerschmitt 109 - myths and facts

"This article and its sub sections are put together to dispell some of the persistent myths about the Messerschmitt 109 fighter. As the most ever built fighter which was the mainstay of German Luftwaffe and various other air forces, including Finnish, Spanish, Hungarian, Romanian air forces, the plane is also victim of intentional disinformation, many most persistent urban myths and just ignorance. Not having first hand information or poor understanding of the subject leads easily to absurd claims.

The attempt here is to look at the subject, Messerschmitt 109, through the eyes of the 109 pilots.

This article is primarily a collection of pilot quotes that relate to actual flying of the plane. The quotes are from interviews, articles and books. They are complemented with some additional bits about other topics. It is not a serious study - just bunch of pilot opinions that might be conflicting to each other. Pilot's comments are always "their facts". I do not guarantee 100% that the other materials are always completely correct. Errors may and most likely remain."

Examples:

General comments on Me 109

Me 109 G:
"It was very advanced and equipped with new, more sophisticated technology. Nicknamed Gustav, the 109G was well armed, but not as light as the early E and F versions. Its more powerful engine meant higher power settings whose initial climb rate sent it soaring to 18700 feet in six minutes, but at low speed the plane was difficult to handle."
- Major Gunther Rall in April 1943. German fighter ace, NATO general, Commander of the German Air Force. 275 victories. Source: Gunther Rall, a memoir.

Me 109 G:
"Comparing the Curtiss and the Messerschmitt (109 G), which one was the more pleasant to fly ?
Well, both were pleasant each in their own way. The Curtiss was as if in your control all the time. More speed would have been necessary. The Messerschmitt had speed, she climbed well and was well-armed. That was it. Both types were good aircraft in their age."
- Kyösti Karhila, Finnish fighter ace. 32 victories. Source: Interview by Finnish Virtual Pilots Association.

Me 109 G-6:
Me109 had good performance values for its time, the weapons (1 x 20 mm + 2 x 13 mm) were accurate and effective. The option for 3x20mm cannons was well suited against IL-2s. I didn't regard the swerving during take-offs as anything special. In my opinion, the accidents were caused by poor training.
- Martti Uottinen, Finnish war bomber pilot, post war fighter pilot. Source: Hannu Valtonen, "Me 109 ja Saksan sotatalous" (Messerschmitt Bf 109 and the German war economy), ISBN 951-95688-7-5.

Landing the 109

Me 109 E-4:
"I established a speed of 200 kmh to enter the downwind leg, 150 at the end of the downwind, a curving final approach aiming to reduce speed to 130 kmh halfway around, 120 kmh with 30 degreed to go to the centreline and a threshold speed of 110 kmh with a dribble of power to stabilise the rate of speed decay.
Compare this with Black 6 (109 G) where I aimed to be at 200 kmh at the end of the downwind leg and not less than 165 kmh at the threshold."
- Charlie Brown, RAF Flying Instructor, test flight of restored Me 109 E-4 WN 3579. Source: Warbirds Journal issue 50.

Me 109 G-6:
Landing was slightly problematic if the approach was straight, with slight overspeed at about 180 km/h. Landing was extremely easy and pleasing when done with shallow descending turn, as then you could see easily the landing point. You had a little throttle, speed 150-160 km/h, 145 km/h at final. You controlled the descent speed with the engine and there was no problems, the feeling was the same as with Stieglitz. If I recall correctly the Me "sits down" at 140-142 km/h.
The takeoff and landing accidents were largely result from lack of experience in training. People didn't know what to do and how to do it. As a result the plane was respected too much, and pilots were too careful. The plane carried the man, and the man didn't control his plane.
- Erkki O. Pakarinen, Finnish fighter pilot. Source: Hannu Valtonen, "Me 109 ja Saksan sotatalous" (Messerschmitt Bf 109 and the German war economy), ISBN 951-95688-7-5.

Me 109 G:
"I didn't notice any special hardships in landings."
-Jorma Karhunen, Finnish fighter ace. 36 1/2 victories, fighter squadron commander. Source: Hannu Valtonen, "Me 109 ja Saksan sotatalous" (Messerschmitt Bf 109 and the German war economy), ISBN 951-95688-7-5.

Diving - structural rigidity of 109 in dives

Me 109 G:
"The maximum speed not to be exceeded was 750kmh. Once I was flying above Helsinki as I received a report of Russkies in the South. There was a big Cumulus cloud on my way there but I decided to fly right through. I centered the controls and then something extraordinary happened. I must have involuntarily entered into half-roll and dive. The planes had individual handling characteristics; even though I held the turning indicator in the middle, the plane kept going faster and faster, I pulled the stick, yet the plane went into an ever steeper dive.
In the same time she started rotating, and I came out of the cloud with less than one kilometer of altitude. I started pulling the stick, nothing happened, I checked the speed, it was about 850kmh. I tried to recover the plane but the stick was as if locked and nothing happened. I broke into a sweat of agony: now I am going into the sea and cannot help it. I pulled with both hands, groaning and by and by she started recovering, she recovered more, I pulled and pulled, but the surface of the sea approached, I thought I was going to crash. I kept pulling until I saw that I had survived. The distance between me and the sea may have been five meters. I pulled up and found myself on the coast of Estonia.
If I in that situation had used the vertical trim the wings would have been broken off. A minimal trim movement has a strong effect on wings when the speed limit has been exceded. I had 100kmh overspeed! It was out of all limits.
The Messerschmitt's wings were fastened with two bolts. When I saw the construction I had thought that they are strong enough but in this case I was thinking, when are they going to break
- What about the phenomenon called "buffeting" or vibration, was there any?
No, I did not encounter it even in the 850kmh speed."
- Kyösti Karhila, Finnish fighter ace. 32 victories. Source: Interview by Finnish Virtual Pilots Association.

Me 109 G:
"Me 109 had good and accurate weapons, but those were the only good points of it. To me, it's unacceptable that somebody had built a fighter plane that couldn't be dived without limits. Me109 had a dive limit of 880km/h - you weren't to exceed it or the plane would break up. Just this happened to Sgt Mäittälä. I (and Pokela) was forced to exceed this limit twice, I can't describe how it felt just to sit in the cockpit waiting, if the plane would break up. I have never gotten rid of that feeling, of being trapped."
-Heimo Lampi, Finnish fighter ace. 13 1/2 victories. Source: Hannu Valtonen, "Me 109 ja Saksan sotatalous" (Messerschmitt Bf 109 and the German war economy), ISBN 951-95688-7-5.

Me 109 G-2/G-6:
"The Russkies never followed to a dive. Their max dive speeds were too low, I suppose. It was the same in the Continuation War, their La-5's and Yak-9's turned quickly back up. "
- How heavy did the Me controls get at different speeds?
"It got heavy, but you could use the flettner. It was nothing special, but a big help.
Once in '43, there was a Boston III above the Gulf of Finland. I went after it, and we went to clouds at 500 meters. Climbing, climbing, climbing and climbing, all the way to seven kilometers, and it was just more and more clouds. It got so dark that I lost sight. I turned back down, and saw the Russkie diving too. Speed climbed to 700 km/h. I wondered how it'd turn out. I pulled with all my strength when emerging from the clouds, then used the flettner. I was 50 meters above sea when I got it to straighten out. I was all sweaty. At that time the Me's were new to us."
- Did the roll capabilites change?
"Not so much. It got stiffer, but you still could bank."
- Were you still in full control at high speeds, like at 600-700 km/h?
"Yes. "
- Mauno Fräntilä, Finnish fighter ace. 5 1/2 victories. Source: Interview by Finnish Virtual Pilots Association: Chief Warrant Officer Mauno Fräntilä.

Full article available at the Finnish Virtual Pilots Association web site:
http://www.virtualpilots.fi/feature/articles/109myths/

Other recent English language articles:

Martti Lehtovaara
Martti Lehtovaara was interested on aviation already at a young age. He was trained as pilot in the military pilot course #2. During the Continuation War first at Reserve Squadron 35, then as fighter pilot in Squadrons 32, 24 and 26.
"A couple of Russians spotted him and came after. Bruun called to mechanics in the tent to come and see how Cassu gets shot down. Everyone thought that's what would happen. " ...read the whole story.
http://www.virtualpilots.fi/hist/WW2His ... glish.html

Chief Warrant Officer Mauno Fräntilä
Chief Warrant Officer Mauno Fräntilä "began the flight business in 1936". He was one of the few who piloted the Fokker D.XXI fighter in the Winter War sorties. Subsequently Fräntilä served in Squadron 32 and was one of those who were assigned to the new Squadron 34 that was equipped with the new Me-109 fighters. After the war Fräntilä continued as an Air Force pilot, working as a flight teacher.
"Speed was essential and should never be lost in combat. Never become a cross in the sky. The Messerschmitt was exellent. You got always away when you pushed your nose down, and it then rose like an elevator. You soon had upper hand again.
http://www.virtualpilots.fi/hist/WW2His ... glish.html

Tony Williams
Member
Posts: 1360
Joined: 18 Feb 2004 04:31
Location: UK

Post by Tony Williams » 16 Mar 2005 08:56

The conclusion I came to, after reading many similar comments from pilots, was that the Bf 109 remained a very effective fighter in skilled hands right to the end of the war. That is demonstrated by the fact that many Experten preferred it over the Fw 190.

But (and it's a big but) it did take skill and experience to overcome its quirks and get the best out of it. In inexperienced hands it was difficult to fly to the point of being dangerous, especially the later and heavier versions. Not the kind of plane you want when you are training new pilots and getting them into combat as fast as you can.

It is instructive to read the comments of Eric Brown, a highly experienced fighter/test pilot who flew anything he could. He disliked the Bf 109, and did not rate it at all highly as a flying (as opposed to fighting) machine.

Tony Williams: Military gun and ammunition website and discussion
forum

User avatar
MAX_theHitMan
Member
Posts: 965
Joined: 19 Apr 2004 00:28
Location: Planet*Portugal

Post by MAX_theHitMan » 16 Mar 2005 15:47

Full article available at the Finnish Virtual Pilots Association web site:
http://www.virtualpilots.fi/feature/articles/109myths/



Many Thanks for that Grendel-B 8) Very cool reading , I liked that alot.



User avatar
Topspeed
Member
Posts: 4785
Joined: 15 Jun 2004 15:19
Location: Finland

Post by Topspeed » 17 Mar 2005 07:15

Me 109 G excelled in the hands of good pilots. It had no rearward visibility so radios were handy in combat when people flying them were watching each other backs. Hans Wind was shot from behind, but managed to get back to base.

Good climber and fast enough. Initially the cannon armament was it's weapon of success.

Heinkel He-100 was faster with standard engine and cooling system in 1937 than a 109 G-6 in 1944. 109 was aerodynamically far for perfect, but it was easy to produce in large numbers. Also the usage of 87 octane fuel served the purpose of economy of large masses.

Take off with a 109 was a miserable task to overcome for very large part of pilots.

- Barbarossa Isegrim -
Member
Posts: 56
Joined: 27 Dec 2002 19:43
Location: Hungary

Post by - Barbarossa Isegrim - » 17 Mar 2005 11:09

Tony Williams wrote: It is instructive to read the comments of Eric Brown, a highly experienced fighter/test pilot who flew anything he could. He disliked the Bf 109, and did not rate it at all highly as a flying (as opposed to fighting) machine.
Eric`s Brown only experience with the 109 is a brief one-hour flight with Bf 109 G-6 with those 20mm gunpods kits. Those weighted as much as 500 lbs bomb - when mounted for bomber interception - and I guess he wouldn`t give high marks for any fighter`s agility with bombload.. He wasn`t even allowed to fly at more than 30-min power either. In brief, he flew the worst possible variant in the worst conditions without having experience with the plane. All the others I have read said it was a very very simply plane to fly, just malicious at takeoff.

User avatar
Topspeed
Member
Posts: 4785
Joined: 15 Jun 2004 15:19
Location: Finland

Post by Topspeed » 17 Mar 2005 13:04

FAF pilot did not like the 20 mm pods in the wings either. Only one who scored major victories with them was Kyösti Karhila. He claimed several Mustangs...according to his story. Illu Juutilainen removed them soon...less meneuvreability he figured.

gabriel pagliarani
Member
Posts: 1583
Joined: 01 Aug 2002 03:11
Location: ITALY

Post by gabriel pagliarani » 20 Mar 2005 12:05

Also italian pilots never liked gunpods. All the comments reported are about guns without ammos 8) The weight of ammos doubled the complessive weight of the weapon. The test reported was held on a concrete strip for civilian standard purposes: curious to read such comments when landing on grass strips. :lol: Definitely the landing gear was not the point of excellence of Bf.

User avatar
Victor
Member
Posts: 3904
Joined: 10 Mar 2002 14:25
Location: Bucharest, Romania

Post by Victor » 20 Mar 2005 12:53

From what I read and heard from former Romanian Bf-109G pilots, the gun pods did indeed reduce the maneuverabilty, but when having to hunt Il-2s they increased the fire power dramatically.

User avatar
Topspeed
Member
Posts: 4785
Joined: 15 Jun 2004 15:19
Location: Finland

Post by Topspeed » 21 Mar 2005 07:22

I dare. What were the myths about Me 109 ?

weiss
Member
Posts: 142
Joined: 05 Nov 2004 07:09
Location: Savannah, GA

Post by weiss » 21 Mar 2005 08:23

Yeah, this did'nt really change my views on the Bf 109, what 'myths' was this supposed to correct?

Most of these first hand accounts deal with the G series, wich was outclassed by newer allied aircaft in '44-'45 anyways, so what was this thread supposed to correct? Plus, as with all first hand accounts, you have to put the pilots own experience into perspective. Maybe a pilot thought the Bf 109G was the greatest thing since sliced bread, but did he ever get to fly a
P-51D, Corsair, Ki-84, FW-190D, or Ta 152 to be able to actually make a balanced comparison? To put it another way, a new Chevy is a good car... until you drive a new BMW, that will change your whole perspective about what 'good' is!

gabriel pagliarani
Member
Posts: 1583
Joined: 01 Aug 2002 03:11
Location: ITALY

Post by gabriel pagliarani » 21 Mar 2005 11:15

weiss wrote:...Maybe a pilot thought the Bf 109G was the greatest thing since sliced bread, but did he ever get to fly a
P-51D, Corsair, Ki-84, FW-190D, or Ta 152 to be able to actually make a balanced comparison? To put it another way, a new Chevy is a good car... until you drive a new BMW, that will change your whole perspective about what 'good' is!
My own dad did it. :lol: At the end of WW2 he joined the new AMI which weapons were the obsolete planes that served the Allies on italian front. So he flew with the Bf 109 G/K in ANR before WW2 and with the same Spit IX, P51-D and P-47 D/N he had to face. The best choice for him? Incredibly, the Thunderbolt was the only plane he really beloved before jetliners: all other planes of WW2 were only "avionettes" in his opinion! 8O I have put on his tombstone the photo he preferred in which he was smiling towards some crewmen while sitting on the large engine-cowling of a P-47 parked in the grass of a sunny italian air base. The 4 bladed enormous propeller represents the Holy Christian Cross. There are absolutely no rules about the taste of skilled veteran pilots.

Huck
Member
Posts: 1188
Joined: 19 Jul 2004 12:52
Location: Detroit

Post by Huck » 21 Mar 2005 20:30

weiss wrote:Yeah, this did'nt really change my views on the Bf 109, what 'myths' was this supposed to correct?
In general, poor quality reports written about Me 109 handling. Me 109 had excellent handling, just that it was different from all Allied planes. German fighters used movable horizontal stabilizer, to improve the handling over an wider speed interval. In order to benefit from this "elevator" trim had to be used actively like a primary control. This is why Me 109's "elevator" trim had an oversized wheel in the cockpit and Fw-190 had it electrically powered. This was and still is the best solution to keep the plane controlable from low speeds to transonic regime (for supersonic speeds stabilators are better). Later this solution was adopted for early generations of jet fighters (including Sabre), and today all transonic planes still use it (airliners for example). Unfortunatelly, Allied pilots that tested German planes during the war were not aware of movable stabilizer way of employment and reported atrocious nonsense about German fighters handling.
weiss wrote:Most of these first hand accounts deal with the G series, wich was outclassed by newer allied aircaft in '44-'45 anyways, so what was this thread supposed to correct?
Really? which were those planes?
weiss wrote:Plus, as with all first hand accounts, you have to put the pilots own experience into perspective. Maybe a pilot thought the Bf 109G was the greatest thing since sliced bread, but did he ever get to fly a P-51D, Corsair, Ki-84, FW-190D, or Ta 152 to be able to actually make a balanced comparison?
So those were the planes you had in mind? Well, it might come as a shock to you, but late war Me 109 outperformed all these planes (except Ta 152, but only at high altitude). The only disadvantage Me 109 had compared with these planes, was the range, though this was the usual drawback of dogfighters. However, the range was enough for the usual mission that it had: fast cruise: 600km and 1hr endurance; econo cruise: 1000km and 3hr endurance, and this without drop tank. With drop tank in economical cruise regime it could fly for 5 hours a distance of 1600km.

Paul Lakowski
Member
Posts: 1441
Joined: 30 Apr 2003 05:16
Location: Canada

Post by Paul Lakowski » 22 Mar 2005 01:30

Huck wrote:
So those were the planes you had in mind? Well, it might come as a shock to you, but late war Me 109 outperformed all these planes (except Ta 152, but only at high altitude). The only disadvantage Me 109 had compared with these planes, was the range, though this was the usual drawback of dogfighters. However, the range was enough for the usual mission that it had: fast cruise: 600km and 1hr endurance; econo cruise: 1000km and 3hr endurance, and this without drop tank. With drop tank in economical cruise regime it could fly for 5 hours a distance of 1600km.
When did germany get drop tanks for its fighters?

Denniss
Member
Posts: 368
Joined: 26 Nov 2004 02:52
Location: Germany

Post by Denniss » 22 Mar 2005 02:04

Paul Lakowski wrote:When did germany get drop tanks for its fighters?
AFAIK 1941 with 109E-7

Paul Lakowski
Member
Posts: 1441
Joined: 30 Apr 2003 05:16
Location: Canada

Post by Paul Lakowski » 22 Mar 2005 05:15

Denniss wrote:
Paul Lakowski wrote:When did germany get drop tanks for its fighters?
AFAIK 1941 with 109E-7
Thanks! How many liters did each carry and were they drop tanks or fixed to the wing during flight?

Return to “Luftwaffe air units and Luftwaffe in general”