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.
Uncle Joe
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Post by Uncle Joe » 24 Mar 2005 04:52

Tony Williams wrote:
Huck wrote:What is this, other than the usual trashing fighter pilots give to enemy planes?
It doesn't read that way to me - he states the pros and cons of the various aircraft in a fairly even-handed way - or do you regard any criticism of the 109 as "trashing"?
In a fight, a good pilots that starts with a speed and/or height advantage can dominate a superior plane flown by an inferior pilot. His account does not tell anything about the relative energy states of the planes he met. Then, there are a myriad of variables that can influence a particular engagement: was the enemy plane hit before (by bomber gunners for instance), how old was the airframe/engine of the plane he met? how good was the pilot? etcetera etcetera...
His account is evidently the cumulative experience of a number of encounters he and his fellow pilots had, together with discussions with German pilots. He also points out that pilot quality was the key.

His conclusions are in line with the majority of views I have read from all sides: it was a very close match between the Fw 190D and the contemporary P-51 (and also the Spitfire XIV) but the equivalent Bf 109 trailed behind. With the Bf 109 you had a choice: good performance but poor armament, or (with gunpods) decent armament with reduced performance and handling. And all models seemed to require skill and experience to get the best out of them (particularly as they got heavier), so this exacerbated any problems of inadequate training (which the Luftwaffe certainly suffered from by the end).

To sum up - an effective fighter for experts, a poor choice for a poorly-trained air force.

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Tony, that pilot sounds an arrogant pri*** to me. I have no credibility for him for he repats that old BS about "Hiltler´s interference with Me 262. If he can´t get this right, how can he get anything right?

The sad thing here is that those bashing the handling of the 109 with the gunpods do not have any numerical figures to prove their comments on "much worse" manoeuvreability. The best pointer might be the Finnish trials of a Fokker D.XXI with two 20 mm MG-FF gunpods. These pods were larger than those of the 109 and relatively heavier (in comparison to aircraft power and weight). Yet, their effect on handling was negligible. I´d certainly prefer a 109K-4 with gunpods to a P-51D.

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Post by Paul Lakowski » 24 Mar 2005 05:32

Thanks! OK so > 375 mph and Mk-108 + two 7.7mm LMGs and 35minutes endurance not counting the 300 l from the drop tank. I wonder what endurance that would be in econo cruise? I estimate about 2 hours and 15 minutes total.

I wonder if each wing could be stressed to take a small bomb of say 50kg region?

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Post by Topspeed » 24 Mar 2005 05:42

I recall the FAF 109s never flew longer than 1 hour 50 minutes. Possibly because there was no need to fly any longer.

Tony Williams
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Post by Tony Williams » 24 Mar 2005 08:51

Uncle Joe wrote: Tony, that pilot sounds an arrogant pri*** to me. I have no credibility for him for he repats that old BS about "Hiltler´s interference with Me 262. If he can´t get this right, how can he get anything right?
Well, for a start I suspect that many good fighter pilots were arrogant - it sort of went with a combative personality. And I would draw a distinction between what he knew from personal experience (how the planes performed in combat) and what he had read about (Hitler and Me 262 - which appears in countless books).
The sad thing here is that those bashing the handling of the 109 with the gunpods do not have any numerical figures to prove their comments on "much worse" manoeuvreability. The best pointer might be the Finnish trials of a Fokker D.XXI with two 20 mm MG-FF gunpods. These pods were larger than those of the 109 and relatively heavier (in comparison to aircraft power and weight). Yet, their effect on handling was negligible. I´d certainly prefer a 109K-4 with gunpods to a P-51D.
Well, Eric Brown's severe criticisms of the flying characteristics of the Bf 109G are usually dismissed by the plane's supporters on the grounds that the model he flew was fitted with gunpods and therefore had much worse performance and handling than a 'clean' plane. You can't have it both ways!

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Von Schadewald
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Post by Von Schadewald » 24 Mar 2005 10:08

The author of this article http://www.aeroscientists.org/aircraft.html
is obviously besotted with the Me109!

Overall, were its slats viewed as more of a boon or a bane?

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Post by Tony Williams » 24 Mar 2005 11:51

Von Schadewald wrote:Overall, were its slats viewed as more of a boon or a bane?
Eric Brown didn't like them because they operated unpredictably and that could spoil the aim if you were trying to shoot something.

TW

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Post by Uncle Joe » 24 Mar 2005 12:11

Well, why didn´t Eric the Great bash the slats of the Me 262 in which their operation principle was exactly the same? Why did he refuse to discuss 109 handling post war with Heinrich Beauvais (German test pilot)? Do compare what he wrote of the P-47 in "Testing for Combat" and what the RAE wrote about it (the latter summarized in "The Secret Years" from Hikoki). Comments are pretty wide apart.

As for the gunpods, their effect of performance has been reasonably documented, but I have not seen any numerical reference as to their effect on rate of roll and rate of turn.

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Post by gabriel pagliarani » 24 Mar 2005 13:44

Uncle Joe wrote:....As for the gunpods, their effect of performance has been reasonably documented, but I have not seen any numerical reference as to their effect on rate of roll and rate of turn.
I have just seen the table of roll-rate vs. speed and vs. wing-loads on this forum a lot of time ago.

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Post by Tony Williams » 24 Mar 2005 14:50

Eric Brown was employed as a test pilot after successful service as a Fleet Air Arm fighter pilot. His job was to give factual, accurate, unbiased accounts of every aspect of the performance of the planes he tested. And he tested a huge number: possibly more than anyone else, so he had a tremendous amount of experience to bring to his judgments. He must also have been very good at the job since he was at it for a long time, testing the most advanced prototypes well into the jet age.

I have read all of his books, and have found him to be even-handed in his evaluations, without any national bias. He doesn't simply say whether or not he likes planes, he says exactly what he does or doesn't like about them and why. As far as I'm concerned, his judgment is likely to be more accurate than that of other pilots unless they have equivalent experience.

TW

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Post by Uncle Joe » 24 Mar 2005 15:10

Tony Williams wrote:Eric Brown was employed as a test pilot after successful service as a Fleet Air Arm fighter pilot. His job was to give factual, accurate, unbiased accounts of every aspect of the performance of the planes he tested. And he tested a huge number: possibly more than anyone else, so he had a tremendous amount of experience to bring to his judgments. He must also have been very good at the job since he was at it for a long time, testing the most advanced prototypes well into the jet age.

I have read all of his books, and have found him to be even-handed in his evaluations, without any national bias. He doesn't simply say whether or not he likes planes, he says exactly what he does or doesn't like about them and why. As far as I'm concerned, his judgment is likely to be more accurate than that of other pilots unless they have equivalent experience.

TW
I know of his background as I corresponded with him for years, well over 10 letters each way. One thing I learned about him he is a very hard headed guy. Even if proven wrong, he sticks to his views as the absolute truth. As far as the 109 flight he made, he flew it only for a short time, was not cleared to use full power etc. Beauvais had certainly flown the 109 more than Brown, yet Brown refused to listen what Beauvais had to say. Doesn´t sound too objective to me. Besides, why didn´t he bash the slats on the Me 262? Their operation was exactly the same in both (i.e. each slat operated independent of each other). Though he has no national bias, he does have bias. You just have read between the lines to fully appreciate that.

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Post by brustcan » 24 Mar 2005 20:23

Tony Williams wrote: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.

Hello! Most of the Experten flying the Bf 109, on the eastern front, had no real problems with Russian aircraft. When these experts came west, it was a different story, there were many top Luftwaffe pilots lost, because the advantage held on the eastern front, was gone against P-51 and P-47.
Many a veteran pilot who was in trouble tried as a last resort, flipping the plane over, and diving away upside down, only to find that the P-51 and P-47 could stay with them and were shot down. The majority of the western based Luftwaffe flew Fw-190's(like Pips Priller who flew the entire war only in the West.

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.
The training given to Luftwaffe pilots from 1943 onwards, had pilots getting less and less hours flying time. Imagine coming off training on an Arado 96(the main aircraft used for fighter pilots), which was stable, folding inward landing gear, and then going onto a BF109G. Many a pilot, didn't get the takeoff and landing right, and died as a result. Interesting to note: the first foreign pilot to fly a BF 109 was Major Al Williams USMC, who was a friend of Ernest Udet. Williams was touring Europe in a modified Grumman G22 "Gulfhawk", and he made a deal with Udet...Udet could fly the G22 and Williams, the Bf 109D. On July 15, 1938 he flew the
BF 109D and was really impressed by the aircraft. Williams only had one
critical thing to tell Udet: THE WEAK SPOT ON THE AIRCRAFT WAS THE LANDING GEAR! Udet replied that there were plans to have the wheels fold inwards, towards the fuselage! We know this never happened. Cheers brustcan

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Post by richardrli » 25 Mar 2005 02:52

Not really, I believe a Yak-9 or Il-2 would give any Luftwaffe aircraft a run for it's money.

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Post by Von Schadewald » 25 Mar 2005 08:58

What was the idea and advantage, if any, of outward folding narrow landing gear?
How did the landing & take-off charcteristics and landing gear of the equally narrow Spitfire compare to the Bf109?
Last edited by Von Schadewald on 25 Mar 2005 09:17, edited 1 time in total.

Tony Williams
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Post by Tony Williams » 25 Mar 2005 08:58

Uncle Joe wrote:I know of his background as I corresponded with him for years, well over 10 letters each way. One thing I learned about him he is a very hard headed guy. Even if proven wrong, he sticks to his views as the absolute truth. As far as the 109 flight he made, he flew it only for a short time, was not cleared to use full power etc. Beauvais had certainly flown the 109 more than Brown, yet Brown refused to listen what Beauvais had to say. Doesn´t sound too objective to me. Besides, why didn´t he bash the slats on the Me 262? Their operation was exactly the same in both (i.e. each slat operated independent of each other). Though he has no national bias, he does have bias. You just have read between the lines to fully appreciate that.
Whichever way you look at it, one thing is clear: that Brown, despite obviously loving to fly and trying out every plane he could, took an instant dislike to the 109 and didn't enjoy flying it. That should tell you something about the plane.

I do not doubt that an experienced 109 pilot could have flown it better than Brown did. That's the point I've been trying to make all along: that it was an effective fighter in experienced hands, but was not kind to tyros. This didn't matter in 1940 when the Luftwaffe pilots were highly trained and experienced, but as the war progressed the training levels dropped and fewer pilots survived long enough (due either to combat or accident losses) to learn how to fly it properly. Meanwhile the plane was getting heavier, more powerful and even less forgiving. Not a good combination.

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Post by Tony Williams » 25 Mar 2005 09:36

Von Schadewald wrote:What was the idea and advantage, if any, of outward folding narrow landing gear?
How did the landing & take-off charcteristics and landing gear of the equally narrow Spitfire compare to the Bf109?
The explanation I have heard was that you could push the fuselage around the factory without the wings being attached. There was probably also a structural weight benefit in that the forces of landing were transmitted into the stronger fuselage rather than into the wings.

The difference between the Spitfire and 109 that I have read was that the Spitfire was more controllable on the ground due to differences in the alignment and angle of the wheels, but I can't explain that in more detail.

It has occured to me that the best single mod to the 109 which could have been made (possibly when the F model was introduced) would have been to add a couple of inner wing sections - no more than half a metre each side - to the outside of which the undercarriage would have been attached. You would have gained three important benefits in one go:

1 - wider track undercarriage for greater stability on takeoff and landing (the most dangerous activities in a 109)

2 - increased wing area to compensate for the ever-increasing weight

3 - room to put a couple of synchronised 20mm cannon, as with the Fw 190. The armament of 3 x 20mm would have been good enough to have dispensed with the cowling MGs.

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