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Dr. Wilhelm Emil "Willy" Messerschmitt

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"The Man That Started It All"


The Messerschmitt story begins with Professor Willy Messerschmitt joining the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke in 1927 and forming a design team that repeatedly pushed the boundaries of aircraft performance, their Bf 108 Taifun and Bf 109 designs setting records and winning competitions in the second half of the 1930s.

Messerschmitt AG was incorporated as a separate company on July 11 1938, with Willy Messerschmitt as chairman and managing directory, and produced many innovative aircraft for wartime Germany, including the Me 262 Schwalbe, the world's first jet fighter aircraft used in combat, and the rocket-powered Me 163 Komet.

Other Messerschmitt aircraft included the Bf 110 twin-engine fighter-bomber, its less-effective successor Me 210, the Me 410 Hornisse, the enormous Me 321 Gigant transport glider, and its six-engined follow on, the Me 323.

After WW2 the company wasn't allowed to make aircrafts so they looked at alternatives and came up with the three wheeled motorcycle / bubble car KR200. According to an urban legend it's made with old aeroplane parts. It isn't true but since it was designed by aircraft engineers it's probably no coincidence it looks somewhat like an aeroplane.

In 1968 the Messerschmitt AG merged with Bölkow,  a German aircraft manufacturer based in Stuttgart, and one year later the aviation department of the company Blohm was added. The company then became changed their name to Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm. It was finally bought by Daimler Benz in 1989 and was taken over by Benz Aerospace AG.


"Willy Messerschmitt was born on June 26, 1898 and died September 15, 1978. He was a German designer and manufacturer of aircraft. As a young man, Messerschmitt built flying models and later, he built hang gliders." It was quite apparent that Willy had a special interest in aircraft while growing up. Later in life, Messerschmitt enrolled in the "German Military where he then received a medical discharge in 1917." After his time spent in the service, Messerschmitt went to the Technische Hochschule of Munich Germany, where he studied aviation and engineering.

When Messerschmitt finished his work at the institution, he became "employed as chief designer and engineer at the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke in Ausburg." Later, he established a company of his own where he constructed and designed his first military aircraft, the Me109 (also known as the Bf109). "His first aircraft turned out to be a success which was demonstrated when it set the world speed record at 481mph. Messerschmitt then designed and produced many more sophisticated combat aircraft such as the Me110, a two-seater bomber and night fighter; the Me163, which was the first operational rocket-propelled aircraft." And perhaps one of the most important aircraft ever to be constructed, "the Me262, which was Germany's first operational jet-propelled aircraft."

  "After World War II, Messerschmitt factories were devastated. Following the capitulation of Nazi Germany, he was arrested in 1945 for his involvement in the Hitler regime. Messerschmitt was then tried in a Nazification court in 1948 where he was found to be a "reluctant beneficiary" of the regime. "His company temporarily left aviation due to the postwar ban on aircraft production, and his firm produced prefabricated housing and sewing machines." However in 1958, Messerschmitt returned to his life long love of making aircraft and between 1968 and 1969, the Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm company was built with Messerschmitt as honorary chairman. His firm then "produced aircraft, missiles, spacecraft, and highway vehicles."



The Messerschmitt's Effect on World War II


  Willy Messerschmitt was born on June 26, 1898. As he grew older and wiser, he displayed great interest in airplanes, from the Wright Brothers plane, the Kitty Hawk, to those of his own design, the Messerschmitts. Many different models of his planes were constructed during World War II. "The Luftwaffe flew these light attackers into many battles during the daytime as well night time." The Messerschmitt aircraft won many victories for the German Alliance during World War II. A fine example of this is "Major Erich Hartmann who was Germany's top fighter ace in World War II.

 Major Erich Hartman was the highest scoring fighter pilot of all time. He had achieved 353 victories by the end of the war. Most of his operational career was spent with JG52 on the eastern front, flying various versions of the BF109," (which you will learn about within the next pages). "Post war, he was held prisoner in Russia for 3 years, and later joined the new Federal German Air Force, rising to the rank of colonel. "Without the series of Messerschmitt planes that the German army constructed, the German forces would have been a much weaker force in what was to be proclaimed as "Hitler's War."

Like all aircraft when first constructed, the Messerschmitt aircraft did have some problems. The test pilots and engineers that worked on the crafts themselves corrected these. Their expertise and experience brought modifications to the crafts that made them operate correctly. The Messerschmitt aircraft became the world's best aircraft of that era. The infamous Sopwith Camel closely followed the various Messerschmitt models.

    The German planes showed great speed, superior handling, great technical design, and overall, exemplified that they would soon become the whole world's standard for combat aircraft. The fighter planes flown today would not be the highly sophisticated air vehicles they are, if the Messerschmitts were not constructed. Aviation history, social history, economic stature of countries, and even the most elaborate space programs in the world would be drastically as well. On the following pages you will learn about specific models of aircraft that Willy Messerschmitt as well as other German engineers of that time constructed. After the 109 series, aircraft such as the 163 and 262, became the first planes int he world to ever be powered by rocket and jet propelled engines.

"Willy Messerschmitt was born on June 26, 1898 and died September 15, 1978. He was a German designer and manufacturer of aircraft. As a young man, Messerschmitt built flying models and later, he built hang gliders." It was quite apparent that Willy had a special interest in aircraft while growing up. Later in life, Messerschmitt enrolled in the "German Military where he then received a medical discharge in 1917." After his time spent in the service, Messerschmitt went to the Technische Hochschule of Munich Germany, where he studied aviation and engineering.

When Messerschmitt finished his work at the institution, he became "employed as chief designer and engineer at the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke in Ausburg." Later, he establised a company of his own where he constructed and designed his first military aircraft, the Me109 (also known as the Bf109). "His first aircraft turned out to be a success which was demonstrated when it set the world speed record at 481mph. Messerschmitt then designed and produced many more sophisticated combat aircrat such as the Me110, a two-seater bomber and night fighter; the Me163, which was the first operational rocket-propelled aircraft." And perhaps one of the most important aircraft ever to be constructed, "the Me262, which was Germany's first operational jet-propelled aircraft."

   "After World War II, Messerschmitt factories were devastated. Following the capitulation of Nazi Germany, he was arrested in 1945 for his involvement in the Hitler regime. Messerschmitt was then tried in a Nazification court in 1948 where he was found to be a "reluctant beneficiary" of the regime. "His company temporarily left aviation due to the postwar ban on aircraft production, and his firm produced prefabricated housing and sewing machines." However in 1958, Messerschmitt returned to his life long love of making aircraft and between 1968 and 1969, the Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm company was built with Messerschmitt as honorary chairman. His firm then "produced aircraft, missiles, spacecraft, and highway vehicles."


Willy Messerschmitt and His Company


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Willy Messerschmitt seated at his desk, probably at Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm (MBB), in the early 1970s.
Willy Messerschmitt (right) looks closely at the wing of an aircraft under construction.
The Messerschmitt Bf 109 first entered combat with German units during the Spanish Civil War.
The Messerschmitt Me 163 "Komet" used a rocket motor that used hydrogen peroxide as a fuel.
The Messerschmitt Me 262 was the world's first operational turbojet aircraft. Its first flight as a pure jet was on July 18, 1942.

The name Messerschmitt translates from German as "maker of knives." For several years, Messerschmitt aircraft slashed like knives through the enemies of Nazi Germany. However, Germany's leaders expected to win in a short war. When the war dragged on, the British, Americans and Soviets gained time to grow strong. They then went on the offensive and overwhelmed the Nazi state.

Wilhelm Messerschmitt was born in 1898. In 1912, at age 14, he became friends with Friedrich Harth, a builder of gliders. He went on to build and fly his own glider using one of Harth's designs. Both men served in the German army during World War I and continued to work together after the war ended in 1918. Messerschmitt also enrolled in a technical college in Munich, where he received his degree in engineering in 1923.

He set up his own company and began to build motorized aircraft in 1923. Seeking to expand, he sought a subsidy from the Bavarian state government. Its officials gave him the funds—and instructed him to merge with the existing firm of BFW. Messerschmitt's talent as a designer brought new strength to BFW, which built a number of successful planes.

BFW's big opportunity came in 1934. The Nazis had taken power a year earlier; now they wanted a fast new fighter plane. The ensuing rivalry pitted BFW against the competing firms of Arado, Focke-Wulf, and Heinkel. Messerschmitt crafted his design by working with the most powerful engine then available and building the lightest and most compact airframe possible around it. In flight tests it outperformed the planes of its rivals. This fighter, the Bf 109, became a key part of the new Luftwaffe, the Nazi Air Force.

The Bf 109 soon saw combat in the Spanish Civil War. This war, lasting from 1936 to 1939, pitted German and Italian aircraft against enemy planes built in the Soviet Union. This combat experience helped Messerschmitt and BFW improve the basic design, making this fighter still deadlier. It also gave them an advantage over the British, who did not intervene in Spain and whose own fighters thus did not face an early test of battle.

By 1938, the name of the designer Messerschmitt was far better known than that of his company. Accordingly, the directors of BFW changed the name of the firm to Messerschmitt AG—in effect, "Messerschmitt, Inc." This designer now became chairman of the board and general director. With strong support from officials of the Luftwaffe, he went on to build increasingly capable versions of his fighter. He also introduced a twin-engine fighter, the Me 110.

Adolf Hitler liked large production figures, and those who worked with him were eager to please. The Bf 109 was high on his list, with 33,675 Bf 109s being built between 1939 and 1945. It had one of the largest production runs in the history of aviation. Hitler believed that, with his huge air fleet, he would easily conquer his enemies. This strategy worked in France and Poland, which fell to his armies in a matter of weeks.

But in 1940, Hitler attacked Great Britain. That country's Royal Air Force proved strong enough to defeat the Luftwaffe, preventing the Nazis from invading. In 1941, Hitler invaded the Soviet Union—and soon found his armies trapped within the vastness of its land. Messerschmitt responded by taking on the role of Germany's prime builder of new and advanced warplanes.

As early as 1939, the test pilot Fritz Wendel flew a specially built Messerschmitt prototype aircraft. He set a speed record of 469 miles per hour (755 kilometers per hour), a record for propeller-driven planes that stood for 30 years.

Messerschmitt also built the first really large transport plane, the six-engine "Gigant." Weighing 50 tons when fully loaded, it mounted up to 15 machine guns. It carried 22 tons of cargo or up to 120 fully-equipped infantrymen. Its wingspan of 180 feet (55 meters) approached the 195-foot (59-meter) span of the immense Boeing 747 airliner built nearly 30 years later.

The company also built an experimental four-engine bomber, the Me 264. Luftwaffe officials called it the America Bomber because they hoped it would have the range to attack New York City. But the Luftwaffe actually chose to use a rival bomber, the He 177, which was farther along in its development. This was a poor choice because the engines of the He 177 showed an unpleasant tendency to catch fire in flight. This meant that the Luftwaffe abandoned the Me 264 in favor of a plane that could not fly.

Messerschmitt pioneered in building jet- and rocket-powered interceptors. These were to wait until enemy bombers appeared, fly up swiftly to meet them, then attack them at high speed. The rocket plane was the Me 163 "Komet." It used a motor built by the inventor Hellmuth Walter, which burned hydrogen peroxide as a fuel. Alexander Lippisch, a brilliant aeronautical designer, crafted its streamlined shape. It reached 623 miles per hour (1,003 kilometers per hour) in a test in 1941, twice the speed of most fast fighter planes of the day.

Messerschmitt's most serious high-tech effort was the Me 262, the world's first jet fighter to fly in combat. Test flights began in March 1942, again with Fritz Wendel in the cockpit. Its top speed was 541 miles per hour (871 kilometers per hour). Postwar tests showed that it could outfly America's first jet fighter, the Lockheed P-80, which was designed several years later.

Fleets of Me 262s might have hurled back the Allied bomber offensive that brought Germany to its knees. However, its jet engines initially used heat-resistant metals: cobalt, nickel, and chromium. These were in very short supply, so the engine had to be redesigned to do without them. The new jet engine then tended to fail and to need replacement after as little as ten hours of use. The Me 262 indeed was unmatched in the air, but it spent very little time in the air. On the ground, it was a sitting duck for Allied attacks.

In ancient Greece, the philosopher Archilochus wrote, "The fox knows many things. The hedgehog, one big thing." The Nazis were hedgehogs; their big thing was the Bf 109. Entranced with the hope of a short war, they kept it in production even as the Allies arrived with better aircraft. The Allies, in turn, were foxes, armed with a number of fine warplanes. Messerschmitt built excellent aircraft as well. But the Nazis delayed their production until looming defeat made them desperate. By then it was too late.

Willi Messerschmitt was arrested and imprisoned after the war. He had used slave labor, with the Nazis having kidnapped people off the streets and sending them to Germany to work as slaves until they died. He regained his freedom after two years and went back into business. His firm of Messerschmitt initially built sewing machines and prefabricated housing. A resumption of work in aviation seemed far away.

In 1958, he returned to the production of aircraft, building a small Italian fighter plane under license. His company later produced an advanced American fighter, the Lockheed F-104. After 1960, the West German aviation industry consolidated into fewer but stronger companies that could compete effectively in the international market. In 1969 this led to the formation of a large combined corporation, Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm. Willi Messerschmitt was named honorary chairman, holding this position until his death in 1978.

—T.A. Heppenheimer


  • Boyne, Walter J. Messerschmitt 262: Arrow to the Future. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1980.

  • Emde, Heimer and Demand, Carlo. Conquerors of the Air. New York: Viking, 1968.

  • Gunston, Bill. World Encyclopaedia of Aircraft Manufacturers. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1993.

  • Heppenheimer, T. A. Turbulent Skies: The History of Commercial Aviation. New York: John Wiley, 1995.

  • Jenkins, Dennis R. Messerschmitt Me 262 Sturmvogel. North Branch, Minn.: Specialty Press, 1996.

  • Pritchard, Anthony. Messerschmitt. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1975.

  • Schlaifer, Robert, and Heron, S. D. Development of Aircraft Engines and Fuels. Boston: Harvard University, 1950.

  • van Ishoven, Armand. Messerschmitt, Aircraft Designer. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1975.

  • __________. Messerschmitt Bf 109 at War. New York: Scribner's, 1977.



Willy Messerschmitt


Wilhelm Emil "Willy" Messerschmitt

Born June 26, 1898 (1898-06-26)
Died September 15, 1978 (1978-09-16) (aged 80)
Nationality German

Wilhelm Emil "Willy" Messerschmitt (June 26, 1898 September 15, 1978) was a legendary German aircraft designer and manufacturer. He was born in Frankfurt am Main, the son of a wine merchant. His stepfather was the American painter and Munich Academy Professor Carl von Marr.

Probably Messerschmitt's single most important design was the Messerschmitt Bf 109, designed in 1934 with the collaboration of Walter Rethel. The Bf 109 became the most important fighter in the Luftwaffe as Germany re-armed prior to World War II. To this day, it remains the most-produced fighter in history, with some 35,000 built. Another Messerschmitt aircraft, first called "Bf 109R", purpose-built for record setting, but later re-designated Messerschmitt Me 209, broke the absolute world air-speed record and held the world speed record for propeller-driven aircraft until 1969. His firm also produced the first jet-powered fighter to enter service — the Messerschmitt Me 262, although Messerschmitt himself did not design it.


The First SailPlane Design And WWI

As a young man, Messerschmitt befriended German sailplane pioneer Friedrich Harth. Harth joined the German army in 1914 and while he was away at war, Messerschmitt continued work on one of Harth's designs, the S5 glider. In 1917, Messerschmitt himself signed up for military service. Following the war, the two were re-united and continued to work together while Messerschmitt commenced study at the Munich Technical College and Harth built aircraft at the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (BFW - Bavarian Aircraft Works). The S8 glider they designed and built together in 1921 broke a world duration record (albeit unofficially) and they went into partnership for a while running a flying school. The same year, the first plane entirely designed by Messerschmitt flew — the S9 glider.


The Beginning Of His Career

During 1923 Harth and Messerschmitt had a falling out and went their separate ways, with Messerschmitt founding his own aircraft company at Augsburg. At first, Messerschmitt built sailplanes, but within two years had progressed via motor gliders to small powered aircraft - sports and touring types. These culminated in the Messerschmitt M17 and Messerschmitt M 18 designs, which Messerschmitt sold to BFW in 1927, when the Bavarian state government encouraged a merger between the two companies. These were followed by the Messerschmitt M20 light transport in 1928, which proved a disaster for BFW and Messerschmitt himself. Two Lufthansa M20s were involved in serious crashes very soon after purchase, and this led the airline to cancel their order for the type. This caused a serious cash-flow problem for the compan y and led to its bankruptcy in 1931. The M20 crashes also created a powerful enemy for Messerschmitt in the person of Erhard Milch, the head of Lufthansa who had lost a close friend in one of the crashes.


Nazi Germany And World War II


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Messerschmidt meets with Milch (center) and Minister of Armaments and War Production Albert Speer

The establishment of the Reichsluftfahrtministerium ("Reich Aviation Ministry" - RLM) by the Nazi government in 1933, headed by Milch, led to a resurgence in the German aircraft industry and the resurrection of BFW. Collaborating with Robert Lusser, Messerschmitt designed the flagship product of the relaunched company, a low-wing sports monoplane called the Messerschmitt M37, but better known by its later RLM designation of Bf 108 Taifun. The following year, Messerschmitt would incorporate many design features of this aircraft into the Bf 109 fighter.

Nevertheless, only the ties that Messerschmitt had formed with leading Nazis Rudolf Hess and Hermann Göring (through Theo Croneiss) saved him from sharing the fate of Milch's other great enemy, Hugo Junkers. To stay in business in the face of Milch ensuring that he would get no government contracts, Messerschmitt had signed agreements with Romania for sales of the M37 and a transport plane, the Messerschmitt M 36. When Milch learned of this, he publicly denounced Messerschmitt as a traitor, and the Gestapo was sent to question him and other BFW officials. Probably due to Croneiss' intervention, no further action was taken.

When in 1936, the Messerschmitt Bf 109 won the RLM's single-seat fighter contest to become one of the main Luftwaffe aircraft types, Messerschmitt and his factory took an important role in the RLM's armament plans, increasing in significance even further when Messerschmitt's Bf 110 also won the multi-purpose fighter contest.

On July 11th, 1938, Messerschmitt was appointed chairman and managing director of Bayerische Flugzeugwerke and the company was renamed after him to Messerschmitt AG. This same year, the company began work on what would eventually become the Me 262, and of the Messerschmitt Me 210, planned as successor for the Bf 110. The Me 210 turned out to be plagued by massive development problems that were only solved by evolving the type into the Messerschmitt Me 410, and the resulting problems and delays again put the reputation of both Messerschmitt and his namesake company in jeopardy.


His Trial And Post-War Career

Following World War II, Messerschmitt was tried by a denazification court for using slave labor, and in 1948 was convicted of being a "fellow traveller". After two years in prison, he was released and resumed his position as head of his company. Since Germany was forbidden to manufacture aircraft until 1955, he turned his company to manufacturing prefabricated buildings, sewing machines, and small cars - most notably the Messerschmitt Kabinenroller. Exporting his talents, he designed the Hispano HA-200 jet trainer for Hispano Aviacion in Spain in 1952 before eventually being allowed to return to aircraft manufacturing in Germany to licence-produce the Fiat G91 and then Lockheed F-104 Starfighter for the West German Luftwaffe. He designed the later Helwan HA-300 supersonic interceptor.

Messerschmitt saw his company through mergers first with Bölkow in 1968 and then Hamburger Flugzeugbau in 1969, at which point it became MBB (Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm, now part of EADS) with Messerschmitt as chairman until 1970 when he retired. He died eight years later in hospital in Munich.



Messerschmitt's designs were characterized by a clear focus on performance, especially by striving for lightweight construction, but also by minimizing parasitic drag from aerodynamic surfaces. His critics accused him of taking this approach too far in some designs. His falling out with Harth had been over designs Harth felt to be dangerously unstable, and the Me 210 displayed instability, too, which could only be cured by enlarging the airframe and the aerodynamic surfaces, increasing drag and weight. Messerschmitt's design philosophy also is evident in his arguments with Alexander Lippisch, who was designing the tailless Me 163 rocket fighter for production at the Messerschmitt works. While Lippisch maintained the tailless design on principle had an advantage with regard to total drag, Messerschmitt pointed out that the design compromises necessary to make a tailless aircraft safely controllable defeated this purpose by increasing drag to the original level and above.


His Awards


Messerschmitt was appointed an Honorary Professor by the Munich Technical College in 1930, and the Vice-President of the Deutsche Akademie für Luftfahrtforschnung (German Academy of Aeronautical Research). The German government also awarded him the title of Wehrwirtschaftsführer (defense industry leader). In 1938, Adolf Hitler bestowed upon Messerschmitt the German National Prize for Art and Science.



  • Frank Vann: Willy Messerschmitt. First full biography of an aeronautical genius. Sparkford: Stephens, 1993





Prof. Dr.-Ing.Wilhelm Messerschmitt


On June 26, 1898 Wilhelm Emil Messerschmitt was born in Frankfurt/Main. In 1906, Messerschmitt was 8 years old, he moved to Bamberg with his familiy. There he attended high school and later the so called Oberrealschule.

Soon he was interested in aviation and very early, he begun to construct some flying models.
In 1913 Messerschmitt met Friedrich Harth, who constructed gliding planes. Harth joined the german army in 1914, so Messerschmitt, at age of 16, had to build the glider "S 5" by himself. Although the design work was mainly by Harth, the "S 5" was Messerschmitt´s first plane.

In 1917 Messerschmitt made his Abitur and joined the army soon after.

Directly after the end of war, Willi Messerschmitt started his study at the technical university of Munich. At the same time, he still worked with Friedrich Harth, who now was design engineer at the Bayrische Flugzeugwerke (BFW).

In 1921, Messerschmitt on his own designed his first plane: the "S 9". This plane was no success, because it had big problems with flying stability. This flop harmed the relationship between Harth and Messerschmitt, who now had their own firm in Bischofsheim/Röhn. Two years later, in 1923, the two constructors went apart.

So Willi Messerschmitt founded his own firm, the "Flugzeugbau Messerschmitt GmbH" in Bamberg. After he completed his degree, he was able to concentrate on the development and construction of planes.
So the gliders "S 11" to "S 14" followed, as did the motor gliders "S 15" and "S 16". With this motor gliders Messerschmitt took the step to motorized planes and the "S 14" would be the last glider he developed. He now constructed the sports plane "M 17" and the famous commercial aircraft "M 18". It was the first of Messerschmitt planes with an all over metal construction. In it´s different versions, the "M 18" was able to transport up to 6 passengers.

In 1927 Messerschmitt sold the production of the "M 17" and "M 18" to the Bayrische Flugzeugwerke. Messerschmitt also took the position of technical director at BFW.

M 20

1928 it was the commercial plane "M 20" designed at BFW, which was produced in 16 examples. Another order of 10 planes by "Luft Hansa" was canceled, due to the crash of two of the "M 20". That caused heavy financial problems to BFW and the bankruptcy in 1931.

Messerschmitt again worked in his own firm, which still existed until 1933. In that year  BFW was refounded and Messerschmitt incorporated his construction bureau and the Messerschmitt Flugzeugbau GmbH.
At this time the planes "M 27", "M 28", "M 29", "M 31" and "M 35" were designed.

Because of the foundation of the Reichsluftfahrministerium (RLM) in 1933, the aviation industry and also the BFW received more orders. So for example in 1934 the order to produce the "M 37", better known as "Bf 108 Taifun", in quantity. This plane can be called the prototype of all travel planes. It was produced in three versions with 885 examples until 1945. After the war additional 285 exmples were produced in France, called the "Nord 1000".

Bf 108 Taifun

The "Bf 108" had many revolutionary technical innovations. The "Taifun" had retractable flaps on the front of the wings, landing flaps and a retractable landing gear.

Also in 1934 a plane was designed under the leadership of Professor Messerschmitt and Dipl.-Ing. Rethel, that was chosen to take part in the competition for the order of a single-seat fighterplane for the Luftwaffe. This plane was called "Bf 109". Also takeing part in this competition were Arado with the "Ar 80", Focke-Wulf with it´s "Fw 159" and Heinkel with the "He 112".

The final decision was between "He 112" and "Bf 109", the last one won. With a produced number of 30573, it should become the most produced fighter-plane of all time.

Bf 110

In 1934 also the "Bf 110" took shape on the drawing boards of the Messerschmitt construction team. The "Bf 110" never complied with it´s role as a "destroyer". That was rather the fault of this plane, but of the conception to combine the performance of a single engined fighter with the range of a bomber. It was impossible to combine these two roles. The "Bf 110" proved her worth in many other roles: as nightfighter, a fighter-bomber, a heavy fighter and a reconnaissance plane. 5762 examples of "Bf 110" were manufactured.

The RLM gave the German aviation industry the ambitious goal of bringing all flight records to germany. Messerschmitt chief testpilot Wurster got the speed-class-world record with a tuned "Bf 109 B" serial plane in 1937. In the same year the project "Me P. 1059" was developed, which would be quite equal to the "Bf 109" in structure, but was very different from the aerodynamic point of view.

With this plane, named "Me 209 V-1", testpilot Fritz Wendel got the absolut world speed record for piston-engined planes by 755,138 km/h (468 mph), on April 26´th 1939. In the FAI-recordlist you can still find this record, held by a "Bf 109 R". This name was chosen to give the impression, that this record was made by a regular "Bf 109" serial plane.

In 1938 the BFW were renamed Messerschmitt AG. So Messerschmitts planes now received the abbreviation "Me" instead of the former "Bf".

In this year, the Messerschmitt construction bureau also received the first data about jet engines, developed by BMW. The RLM requested Messerschmitt to construct a plane with two of this new engines. So the project "Me P. 1065" was born, which was famous all over the world as "Me 262". The "Me 262" was ready to go into prduction in 1942, but it was canceled then, because the RLM thought, that the war would be won by piston engined planes.

In November 1943 this revolutionary fighter was commanded by Hitler, to be the "Blitzbomber". In spite of ththe fact, that the General of Fighters Adolf Galland had argued vehemently to use the "Me 262" as fighter, it first saw combat as bomber, particularly at KG 54(J).

Me 262 Schwalbe

This period, when the "Me 262" was used as bomber, caused the most of it´s losses, because the bombs, attached on racks below the fuselage reduced the speed to a level, that the "Turbo" could be attacked by enemy fighters again.
The first "Me 262" fighter unit was not been deployed until early 1945. It was the "Jagdverband 44" under the command of Adolf Galland. The predecessor of "Jv 44", "Kommando Nowotny" only received a few "Me 262" in the summer 1944, to test it´s usability as fighter. In spite of all these delays and misuses 1433 "Me 262" were produced before the end of war.

At the same time, the "Me 262" was designed, a successor for the "Me 110" was planned. The "Me 210" looked quite equal to "Me 110", but it was a complete new construction.

Me 210

This plane went in production too early, because it was not yet suitable for front line service. The "Me 210" had many faults, especially in stability. The plane was very difficult to fly and many crashes occurred. The "Me 210" was a huge flop and seriously damaged Messerschmitt's reputation. Messerschmitt and his engineers managed to get the plane suitable for front service, but the "Me 210" again was redesigned and renamed in 1943.

This so developed plane was named "Me 410" and differed from "Me 210", having a longer fuselage and stronger engines. Otherwise the two planes were rather equal. The performance of "Me 410" was satisfying and the trust in Messerschmitts planes again reached the level it was before the "Me 210" flop. The "Me 410" would be the last piston-engined reconnaissance plane, that was able to operate in the sky above England.

Me 323 Gigant

Another famous construction of the Messerschmitt team was the huge cargo-glider "Me 321" in 1940, which got the name "Gigant". Willi Messerschmitt didn´t participate either in the construction of "Me 321", nor it´s redesign to the six engined cargo plane "Me 323" in 1942.

Me 163 Komet

At the Messerschitt facilities another famous and unconventional plane was produced: the "Me 163 Komet".
Although the plane was called "Me", this rocket-engine fighter was constructed by Professor Lippisch, who wasn´t a member of the Messerschmitt team. Messerschmitt only made the serial production.
Although Messerschmitt designed and produced some revolutionary planes, he couldn´t change the tide of war. After the German surrender, Messerschmitt was interned until 1947.

Later, Willi Messerschmitt worked on different projects. He developed concepts for prefabricated houses, power-plants and sewing machines.

In the 50´s Messerschmitt designed the famous "Messerschmitt Kr 200 Kabinenroller", which couldn´t escape it´s background in aviation. It looked more like a cockpit on wheels, than like a car.
After 1952 Messerschmitt also worked for aviation again. He developed the training plane "Ha 100" and the jet planes "Ha 200" and "Ha 300" at the spanic aviation facility Hispano Aviacion.
When the German Air Force was re-founded, the Messerschmitt AG handled the maintenance and service of the "T-6" training planes. The Messerschmitt AG also participated in the licensed production of the Fiat "G.91". The biggest plane production project after the war, was the licensed production of the infamous Lockheed "F-104 Starfighter".
The production of these modern plane models brought the necessary know-how to enable the designing of the vertical take-off plane "VJ 101", in which Messerschmitt himself was involved.

In 1968 the Messerschmitt AG merged with the Bölkow-Gruppe. One year later, the aviation department of the concern Blohm merged. These three enterprises now formed the Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm group, or "MBB" for short.
Professor Messerschmitt held the position of honorary chairman of the board of directors for MBB and took part in the projects of MBB well into his later years.


Professor Dr.-Ing. Willi Messerschmitt died
on September 15´th 1978 in Munich, at age of 80.
He went down in the annals of history as revolutionary pioneer of aviation.




 Dr. Wilhelm Messerschmitt


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Born in 1898, Willy Emil Messerschmitt was the son of a Wine merchant. As a young boy he became obsessed with aviation after seeing a Zeppelin airship. The young Messerschmitt helped out the German gliding pioneer Friedrich Harth and it was Harth who arranged for Messerschmitt to work with him at a military flying school during the First World War. Harth and Messerschmitt together designed the S8 glider which Harth kept airborne for 21 minutes in 1921, a world record for glider flight at the time.

The first all-Messerschmitt design, a tail-less glider called the S9, made its first flight in 1921. It was followed by a series of powered gliders and small sports machines, all of which were dogged by technical failures and accidents. Even when Messerschmitt took to the air himself for the first time (in 1925) the M17 in which he was flying crashed, putting him in hospital for some time.

In the late 20s and early 30s Messerschmitt designed the M20, a simple single-engined transport aircraft, the  that was cheap to operate. These were built under the auspices of the Bavarian Aircraft Works at Augsburg, the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke, hence the term "Bf" for the aircraft originally produced there. Messerschmitt soon found himself  with an enemy in high places in the shape of Erhard Milch, head of German civil aviation and ardent Nazi. Hans Hackman, a close friend of Milch was killed testing the prototype Messerschmitt M20 transport plane. Milch was incensed by Messerschmitt's lack of remorse for the death his friend, and he made sure that Messerschmitt got no government work. It was also Milch who, as head of Lufthansa, forced bancruptcy on the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke in 1931 following further crashes of M20 aircraft. In 1933 Hitler came to power and German rearmament started. This gave Milch even greater power and it might have been expected that Messerschmitt would suffer the same humiliation as another of Milch's enemies; Hugo Junkers. However Messerschmitt had cultivated friends in high places, Rudolph Hess the deputy head of the Nazi party was one, Theo Croneiss a World War I fighter pilot and associate of Hermann Goring was another. The Bayerische Flugzeugwerke was resurrected in 1933 and set about getting government contracts.

In 1934 Messerschmitt designed the M37 to try and win the European Aircraft Rally. In this he was helped by Robert Lusser who had joined the company in 1933 after working at Klemm and Heinkel. This design turned into the Bf108 Taifun, a remarkable four-seat touring aircraft.

When the contest to find a new fighter for the Luftwaffe was announced Messerschmitt realised this was his chance. The design he and Lusser produced was outstanding; a small metal airframe built around a big engine with a thin wing for speed and Handley Page leading-edge slats to bring down the landing speed. It is hard for us today to realise just how revolutionary the Bf109 was. In the 1930's many designers were experimenting with monoplane metal construction, retracting undercarriage, enclosed cockpits and high lift devices, Messerschmitt was the first to combine all of these elements into a single fighter.

By this time Milch's power to influence the choosing of new equipment for the Luftwaffe had been greatly diminished by the appointment of Ernst Udet, a flamboyant WWI fighter ace, to be head of the air force's development section. When Udet first sat in the prototype 109 he declared it would never make a combat aircraft, but that was before he saw it fly and had flown it himself. First and foremost a man who loved to fly, and who excelled in aerobatics, Udet saw that the 109 was simply the best flying machine in the world at that time. He flew them himself in competition at the 1937 Zurich air races.

Messerschmitt gained worldwide recognition for the 109 design and it went on to be produced in greater numbers than any other single seat aircraft in aviation history. He gave the Luftwaffe exactly the weapon that was needed to secure the aerial dominance of Europe in 1939-1941. The Luftwaffe had ordered the Focke-Wulf FW190 to replace the 109 from 1941 onward, but it was never available in the numbers required, and the 109 was superior to it at high altitude. Thus the Bf109 stayed in production until the very end of the war. When one considers the number of fighter types employed by the allies, the Spitfire, Hurricane, Typhoon, Tempest, Thunderbolt, Mustang, Tomahawk and Kittyhawk, the Migs and the Yaks, not to mention the French and Dutch fighter types, and also the lesser Allied fighters such as the Gladiator and Airacobra, the achievements of the Luftwaffe with just the 109 and its later companion the FW190 are remarkable indeed. The reputation built up by Messerschmitt's designs led to the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke being restyled as the Messerschmitt aircraft company, although aircraft that had started in production before the change of name retained the "Bf" nomenclature.

Before the War started, Messerschmitt had developed the 209, perhaps the ultimate piston engined aircraft. This was the aircraft that secured the world speed record for Germany at 469 mph. He had wanted to develop the Me 209 into the next generation of Luftwaffe fighter, but stripped of its high-powered but unreliable racing engine, and with its novel evaporation cooling system changed for more orthodox radiators, the 209 showed little advantage over the 109.

Messerschmitt went on to design many other aircraft. The Bf 110 was a twin engined, two seat fighter that was used with great effect against Allied bombers. The most fantastic of Messerschmitt's war-time designs was the Me 321, a giant glider able to carry a tank that led to the Me 323, a development fitted with engines that could carry up to 130 men. Perhaps Messerschmitt's finest achievement was the beautiful Me 262 twin jet powered fighter with swept wings, a design years ahead of its time. The 262 saw combat at the end of the war but was never available in enough numbers to be anything but a nuisance to the air-forces ranged against Germany.

There is one wartime aircraft project which was a disaster for Messerschmitt. The Luftwaffe wanted to replace the Bf110, the Ju87 Stuka and some of its twin-engined bombers with a single design. Waldemar Voigt, Messerschmitt's chief designer, came up with an outstanding twin-engined two-seat aircraft with very clean lines and the advanced feature of remotely controlled guns in rearward facing barbettes. The design had the potential to be as good as the British Mosquito, with the added advantage of being at least a year ahead of the "Wooden Wonder". However Messerschmitt insisted on weight-saving measures in the new aircraft, called the Me210, which made it unstable longitudinally and caused the undercarriage to collapse. The Luftwaffe had ordered 1,000 examples of the Me210 "off the drawing board" before the prototype had flown, and the aircraft was essential for the German war effort, so the failure of the project was a terrible blow to the prestige of Messerschmitt. In the end the design had to revert to being very close to Voigt's original plans, manufactured as the Me410 the aircraft ended up being nearly two years behind the Mosquito into combat. Goring, head of the Luftwaffe, said his own epitaph should read: "He would have lived longer but for the Me210." The failure of the Me210 project and the cancellation of the production order in 1942 forced Messerschmitt to resign as head of the company, taking on the post of Technical Director instead.

Other Messerschmitt projects, such as the Me 264, a bomber with the range to strike targets in America, never progressed beyond the design or prototype stage. One revolutionary aircraft that bears the name of the Messerschmitt aircraft company was actually the work of Alexander Lippisch, a designer working for Messerschmitt. This was the Me 163 "Komet" rocket powered fighter.

One failing of the German aircraft industry was the reluctance to build long range single-engined escort fighters. The twin-engined Bf 110 was used for long range escort missions during the Battle of Britain, but suffered considerable losses at the hands of the nimble RAF fighters. When pressed by someone to design a single-engined fighter with long range Messerschmitt replied "What do you want, a fast fighter or a barn door?" Years later, forced to seek shelter together from American Thunderbolts attacking the Augsburg factory the same person announced, "Well there are your barn doors!"

Messerschmitt's reputation as an aircraft designer is somewhat open to question. His early aircraft were all prone to failure, often with tragic loss of human life. Indeed it is hard to think of any other aircraft designer with such a record of disaster! It was only after 1933 with a new team of bright young engineers working for him that he had sustained success. Perhaps he should be best remembered as an aviation visionary and organiser. There is no doubt that he was always questing after aircraft that would be better in every way. His passion for producing the fastest or biggest aircraft was exasperating to many of the Nazi and Luftwaffe bureaucrats who wanted all efforts concentrated on existing designs.

After the war Messerschmitt was arrested and tried for having allowed the use of slave labour in his factories. He was in prison for two years. When released he set to work rebuilding his business. Not allowed to make aircraft in Germany one of his products was the Messerschmitt Bubble Car. He managed to do some aircraft design for Hispano in Spain, including work on the HA 200 jet trainer. He also helped in the design of the HA-300 supersonic jet fighter for Egypt in the mid-60s. Problems with the engine meant this advanced tailed delta design never went into production.

The Messerschmitt concern shared in the post-war success of Germany and is now part of the massive MBB concern, which manufactures parts for the European Airbus and the Tornado strike aircraft.

Willy Messerschmitt retired in 1970 and died in 1978.



Prof.  Messerschmitt


Willy Emil Messerschmitt designed planes that were to make a major impact on World War Two. Messerschmitt’s planes fought in most major campaigns in Europe from 1939 to 1945. Along with a few others, such as Reginald Mitchell and Sidney Camm, Messerschmitt helped to revolutionise the design of fighter planes. Messerschmitt 109’s and Messerschmitt 110's both fought in the Battle of Britain – that the Luftwaffe lost this battle was due to the incompetence of tactics as opposed to the planes that fought in it. By the war's end, the Messerschmitt 262 was to re-define the way fighter planes were designed.

Willy Messerschmitt was born in 1898. At an early age he became fascinated by airships, having seen a Zeppelin. This sparked a general interest in aviation and Messerschmitt was soon working for Friedrich Harth – the German gliding pioneer. During World War One, Messerschmitt worked at a military flying school. In 1921, Harth flew a glider – the S8 – for 21 minutes, a world record for the time. Harth and Messerschmitt jointly designed the S8 and it was the first success Messerschmitt had with regards to designing any form of craft that left the ground.

However, as with anyone involved in aircraft design, Messerschmitt had his ups and downs. In 1925, he took to the air himself (for the first time) in M17. It crashed and put Messerschmitt in hospital for some time.

In the late 1920’s, Messerschmitt had his own works based in Augsburg – the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (Bavarian Aircraft Works). His designs were simple and cheap. But they had one serious problem – many crashed. As a result, his company went bankrupt in 1931.

Messerschmitt was saved by the Nazi Party that came to power in January 1933. Probably the most important man in German civil aviation was Erhard Milch. Between 1931 and 1933, Milch had done all that he could to stop Messerschmitt getting any form of contract. He blamed Messerschmitt for the death of one of his best friends who had died when his M20 had crashed. The M20, a transport plane, was one of Messerschmitt’s planes. Milch was a supporter of Hitler, yet it was the Nazi Party that saved Messerschmitt.

Milch may have been important in civil aviation. But Messerschmitt had spent time constructing good relations with one of the most important of all Nazis – Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy. He had also become a friend of Theo Croneiss, a World War One fighter pilot and associate of Hermann Göering – the future head of the Luftwaffe.

Messerschmitt’s first major success came in 1934 when he, aided by Robert Lusser, designed the Bf108 – a four-seat touring plane. In 1935, Nazi Germany announced its intention of rearming. This gave Messerschmitt and his company the opportunity to show Hitler what the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (hence the Bf in plane names) was capable of doing.

The result was the Bf109. It was a revolutionary design – the plane had a monoplane metal construction, retractable undercarriage, enclosed cockpit and devices that gave the plane high lift. By the standards of the time, Messerschmitt had produced a one-off.

The development of the Bf109 also coincided with a major decline in the power of Milch. Ernst Udet, a World War One fighter ace, had been appointed the Luftwaffe’s head of air force development. Udet was less than impressed when he first sat in the Bf109. He found the plane to be cramped and not pilot-friendly. However, when he flew it, Udet realised that Messerschmitt and his team had designed something that took fighter plane design to another level. In 1937, Udet himself flew the plane at the Zurich air races.

The Bf109 was used throughout World War Two. It was produced in huge numbers and became, along with the Focke-Wolf 190, the principal fighter for the Luftwaffe.

Messerschmitt and his team also designed the Bf110. This plane was originally used as a fighter but became a fighter-bomber and was one of the main night-fighters used by the Luftwaffe against night-flying Allied bombers on their way to German targets.

Towards the end of the war, Messerschmitt designed a plane that was truly revolutionary – the Me262. The 262 was the first production jet fighter. It was capable of astonishing speeds for its time. Had it been used more effectively, it would have made more of an impact on World War Two – though it would not have changed the course of the war. However, Albert Speer claimed in his book “Inside the Third Reich” that Hitler got it into his head that the 262 would do best as a fighter-bomber. By carrying the extra weight of bombs, it could not operate at its best. However, short of fuel, short of ammunition etc, the Nazis were doomed to failure and Messerschmitt’s 262, though a massive development in aviation, had little impact on the war.

Messerschmitt also suffered his fair share of failures. The Me210 was meant to replace a whole variety of bombers and fighter-bombers. The Me210 was unstable and its undercarriage was liable to collapse on landing. However, such as Messerschmitt’s prestige in the war, that the Luftwaffe ordered 1000 even before a prototype had flown! Hermann Göering claimed that his power as head of the Luftwaffe would have been longer had the Me210 been successful.

When the war in Europe ended in May 1945, Messerschmitt was arrested and put on trial for allowing the use of slave labour in his factories. He was sent to prison for two years. When he was released from prison, Messerschmitt never achieved his former status. Messerschmitt attempted to get his company going again but the stigma of the association with Hitler and the Nazis effectively ended this.

Messerschmitt retired in 1970 and died in 1978.




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